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Cinthia Rodriguez  El Observador

Cinthia Rodriguez
El Observador

With school just around the corner, staff members along with the director of Somos Mayfair are gearing up for their continuous work, collaborating with parents to promote literacy and education. The non-profit organization well known for working with an immigrant community in East San Jose is in their 16th year. Executive Director for the past three months, Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, has some goals of her own for the organization.

“One goal of mine is to make sure that we become very known for our core leadership development,” said Llanes-Fontanilla. Somos Mayfair offers ongoing training, promotes extensive peer mentorship, and most importantly, provides leadership development training to its community members.

This September will mark Llanes-Fontanilla’s fourth year with Somos Mayfair. As the executive director, her job is to oversee the financial health and program implementation of the organization. She makes sure the vision and mission of the Mayfair community is being met through the work. Somos Mayfair prides itself in building trust in their relationships with community members. They provide the support in the individual’s leadership journey and as a whole. Their work includes parent engagement, policy change at the school district level in Alum Rock School District (ARSD) and county.

“I think at the end of the day, the best thing about our work here at Somos is to be able to see the deep level of connection and relationship we have with this community,” said Llanes-Fontanilla. The organization coordinates and helps host a series of parent workshops. The workshops are framed around having parents understand the educational system, their role as parents in the home to promote literacy and education.

There’s a parent workshop on positive parenting that goes over the kinds of skills needed to demonstrate an interest in their children’s education, being supportive, and really promoting social emotional growth in their children. Somos Mayfair also does a lot of work in the homes of Mayfair. The community is split up in different zones, each with their own ‘promotora’ (leader). Parents organize and meet every other week where they discuss whatever issues they are facing in the school system or family matters. The issues are explored while considering various ways to address the challenge.

“There’s something different about this place, like the depth of relationship with the community members here is far deeper than I’ve ever seen at any other place,” said Llanes-Fontanilla. “There’s just a different level of mutual respect.” In the last two years, a lot of the work has been focused on Cesar Chavez Elementary School and the families there as well as ARSD.

Somos Mayfair has a parent organizing committee ‘empuje’ (push). They work on identifying policy issues at the school school district level. This year, they worked on a language access and translation policy for ARSD. Families weren’t getting access to proper interpretation and translation services so the parents pushed for a policy to be implemented and they won. The committee is working with the school district to make sure that the dollars are flowing to implement that policy. It goes into affect this school year.

“We’re seen as a very strong Latino serving community organization,” said Llanes-Fontanilla. “We have a strong ability to train promotoras in this community, to lead peer mentor work, so that other community members can get engaged because it makes a way bigger difference for another parent to talk to them about the work they are doing.” Llanes-Fontanilla also makes sure there’s a strong board. Currently they have 8 members and are hoping to grow. She works with funders, government as well as foundations, corporations, and individual donors.

Before joining Somos Mayfair, Llanes-Fontanilla was the director of development and communications at Kidango, another non-profit that serves a similar population, based out of Fremont. Eventually she wanted to do work in the area she grew up in. Llanes-Fontanilla’s family immigrated from the northern part of the Philippines in the 70s and 80s. Her grandparents lived in Mayfair. She was born in San Jose and went to Mt. Pleasant High School. She understands Spanish fluently although she doesn’t speak it.

“We don’t see these people as clients or consumers of a service, we see our community members as partners in this work and we really believe that they have the capacity and the strength to drive change in this neighborhood,” said Llanes-Fontanilla.


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