(Photo | Courtesy of LCA)
The Latino Community Association (LCA) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on assisting, educating and connecting with members of Central Oregon’s Latino communities. While the programs and services offered are catered towards the needs of the local Latino community, anyone can benefit from this community-based organization.
Brent Walters is the workforce education coordinator for the LCA. Walters said that, since the organization’s inception, they have offered a variety of educational opportunities to help Latino community members succeed.
“We’ve always offered English classes, computer classes and tutoring programs that cater to the unique needs of each client,” Walters said. “We also offer Spanish classes to members of the community who want to reconnect with the language many of their family members speak
The latter is primarily offered to youth in the community, while Walters deals with adult classes. He runs three full semester’s worth of English and computer classes, accompanied with tutoring, as well as one summer semester. While fall and winter are the most popular times for classes, Walter said that he gets students all times of the year.
Walters and the LCA offer in person classes in Bend, Redmond, Madras and Prineville. While the respective offices in each of these towns are service-based, some of them don’t have the physical capacity for classes; Bend and Madras are the two locations with plenty of room to hold classes and tutoring sessions.
According to Walters, the classes held at the LCA serve a few unique purposes. First, lessons can be catered to the needs of the client. “It’s essential for us to understand why the client is here in the first place,” Walters said. “Our goal is to provide lessons that our clients can use tomorrow. Whether they work in an office, need some assistance communicating with their child’s teacher, or just want to speak English at home, we can cater what we teach to meet those unique goals.”
In addition to more personalized services, the LCA offers a level of comfort and safety that Latino community members don’t always find in more traditional educational spaces, like college for example.
Walters spoke about how it can be intimidating for people who have varying degrees of educational experience, English language proficiency, work load, family life and more to just walk into a college and sign up for a class. When taking a class at the LCA, all of these things are taken into account.
However, the efforts of local colleges like COCC should not be understated. Walters said that, “COCC has been a great partner. Many of our students who want to keep learning these skills end up going to COCC to gain more credit and take higher level courses. We acknowledge that beginners can come to our place, be comfortable and save some money, then move on to COCC later on to continue the educational journey that they started here with us.”
Walters also added that a college course, such as the ones at COCC, can be a big time commitment or create scheduling conflicts for many of their clients who work multiple jobs, have long hours and take care of kids or other family members. For clients in this category, classes at the LCA are ideal, and varying class times that go well outside of regular working hours allow clients to fit their education into their already busy day.
In addition, Walters said that the LCA provides childcare at much more affordable rates when compared to the average cost of childcare in Bend. He said that this is just another example of the dedication the LCA has to accommodating each of their clients’ individual needs, in order to help that individual reach their educational goals.
To help folks adapt to a new age of internet and digital literacy, the LCA offers English language courses based around specific professional topics like HVAC language, computer literacy, GED specific language and more.
Walters said that the classes held at the LCA are very community focused, and students mostly hear about the classes through word of mouth. This can be expected from an organization that is so based in a community like the LCA, but Walters is still thankful that clients of the organization both want to come back for more, and recommend the LCA to their friends and family.
“We find that our students mostly want to keep this going, whether that be more classes with us or moving on to COCC or another higher-ed institution,” Walters said. “We’re just happy to be able to help our community take the first step and gain both language skills and confidence in a space that is familiar to them.”