Alhambra’s Gateway to Success Responds to Shifting Community Demographics
"It’s not justgiving
services we provide,
it is gaining the trust
of the parents and
Dr. Laurel Bear, Project Director
Gateway to Success
In the past decade, the city of Alhambra—located just outside Los Angeles, California—has experienced a cultural shift. A once predominately Caucasian and Latino community, 63% of Alhambra’s population now comprises people from Asian backgrounds. Realizing that the community’s needs would likely change along with this shift, Laurel Bear, project director for Alhambra’s Gateway to Success program, decided to explore just what those needs might be and how they could be met.
With members from the Gateway to Success team—including representatives from the Alhambra school district, community agencies, police department, and higher-education partners—Laurel conducted a survey to assess the community’s needs and desires. Across all ethnic groups, the response was universal. “Every group wanted the same thing—the chance for their children to be successful,” says Bear. She used this knowledge to figure out how to gain the trust of a diverse community.
Laurel and her staff launched a strategy to make cultural diversity the foundation of all services provided by the program. She employed several tactics, starting with training. Using resources from Gateway’s partners and the school district, Gateway staff trained home school coordinators, academic counselors, administrators, and other professionals in the community who come into contact with families.
To address the goal of cultural diversity, the trainings included information about and strategies for working with all cultural groups represented in Alhambra, even if participants are not working with that particular community. “This gives people a broader perspective on cultural diversity,” says Laurel. “Many of our staff are not from the Los Angeles area and did not grow up with the diversity we have here. This cross-training, I believe, gives them a valuable point of view.” In addition, materials used to communicate with community members about Gateway to Success services were translated into other languages, including Chinese and Spanish. This helped the program connect with families who may otherwise have limited access to information regarding mental health services and other supports.
Because of the new levels of communication and trust built with parents, Gateway to Success has been able to help the school district host forums that allow parents to provide direct feedback and input to the district. Such activities have helped Gateway to Success and its partners continue to engage community members, understand their evolving needs, and fill service gaps.