News

Student Initiates Change in Her Own Backyard

by Office of Marketing | July 04, 2011
As Anita Cardoza's internship at the Phoenixville Civic Center came to a close in the spring of 2010, her thoughts moved toward the realization of her expected December 2011 graduation as an Urban Missions major.
As Anita Cardoza's internship at the Phoenixville Civic Center came to a close in the spring of 2010, her thoughts moved toward the realization of her expected December 2011 graduation as an Urban Missions major. But as much as her Student Initiates Change in Her Own Backyardsights were set on ministering in a big city, she couldn't ignore what she was seeing in her local town of Phoenixville. Anita began to notice the growing Latino community, those she saw as the marginalized and the "people living in the shadows." When she was assigned a final project in which she had to focus on a local needy area, she knew that she had to do whatever she could to help her neighbors. 

She began inviting the "movers and shakers" of Phoenixville to monthly meetings during her internship at the Phoenixville Health Care Foundation. It was at these meetings that she described her observations about the Latino community and proposed solutions to those issues, holding these leaders accountable for discussing how their already-existing organizations could join her efforts. It was from these meetings that Alianzas de Phoenixville was born. Soon, Anita's internship was finished. But Anita wasn't. 

On October 18, 2010, Anita initiated and organized a town hall meeting for a standing-room only crowd made up of leaders and Latinos in Phoenixville, Philadelphia, and other surrounding municipalities. The purpose was two-fold: to look the leaders in the eyes and remind them of the scared and distrusting community in their backyards, and to give the Latinos a voice they had not previously had. A second town hall meeting was held in July 2011, and included the Phoenixville Chief of Police, the Mayor of Phoenixville, an immigration lawyer, and advocates from the Phoenixville area. 

Over the past year, Alianzas has continued to become a valuable voice in the community. The group created a Spanish-language newsletter that reaches 2,000 readers, began offering free monthly Spanish computer classes, sponsored a meeting to help Latino small business owners, and sponsored a Community Soccer Festival. In a partnership with VFCC, the English Language Institute (ELI) at VFCC opened its doors to those desiring to study English. Future plans for Alianzas include Spanish family movie nights, a diversity event, an anti-bullying conference, and a Latino Services Center. 

"I am proud of what we have accomplished thus far and am confident we will continue to grow as we learn new and innovative ways to meet our goals," Cardoza said. What began as a required internship project is quickly having a permanent impact on the Phoenixville culture.