AHA! has received a $5,000 grant from the Fund for Santa Barbara for a Spanish language social-emotional learning certification program. Since 1999, the nonprofit AHA! has equipped some 25,000 teenagers, educators and guardians with social and emotional intelligence to dismantle apathy, prevent despair, and interrupt hate-based behavior.

AHA! has long offered parent groups for adult guardians of youth in their programs. While Spanish translation during these groups has always been offered, feedback from Spanish-speaking constituents regularly spoke to the need for additional support.

Given the restrictions and challenges imposed by COVID-19, this need has ballooned within a population often marginalized, unsure of how best to advocate for themselves and their families, and experiencing high levels of stress. News stories revealing significantly higher risk of COVID-related illness and death in the Hispanic population intensified feelings of isolation and fear.

Through the grant from the Fund for Santa Barbara, participants will access a path to skills that will strengthen their ability to build alliances, support one another, and share resources. The workshops are designed and facilitated by three Latinx facilitators who recognize the importance of delivering SEL (social and emotional learning) knowledge in a culturally competent manner.

Their commitment is to empower Latinx families to advocate for themselves within the spheres of work and home; develop stronger, healthier bonds with family members; improve communication skills; increase self-awareness; apply reparative models in times of conflict; and learn effective tools to set boundaries.

The groups are led by AHA! interim executive director Roxana Petty, associate director Leonisia Caporal, and Mariangelica Duque, all Spanish speakers and skilled AHA! facilitators.

Petty is also a member of the newly formed Greater Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, so well-informed as to the emerging needs of this community. She and Caporal, following the guidance provided from outreach efforts, designed an SEL curriculum framed by both AHA!’s years of expertise and their personal and professional understanding of the unique needs of the Latinx community.

“I have enjoyed connecting with people from different backgrounds and focusing on how they can be more connected in their lives by utilizing SEL. I have laughed, teared up, and felt their souls through their vulnerability,” Caporal said.

“This workshop was not what I expected. I’m surprised on how sharing about my feelings and listening to others speak about their emotions has really grounded me today,” said one participant. “Thank you for providing the space for me to share about things that I have never had an opportunity to share and, most importantly, to explore and learn about myself.”

For more information, call 805-770-7200 or visit www.ahasb.org.