Para Los Niños serves over 6,000 students, from infants to young adults, in over 10 locations throughout LA County. Their six early education centers and three charter schools serve to close the achievement gap for children, especially those living in chronic poverty and those who are English Language Learners (ELLs). Their extensive partnerships with organizations like the bio-tech firm Grifols, UCLA, Metro, and other foundations have accelerated their work in programs offered to the youth they serve.
Para Los Niños focuses a portion of their work on homeless, Transitional Age Youth (TAY), and the high school dropout population. They directly hire 300 youth annually, providing training in their Certified Nursing Assistant program, and in their Youth Ambassadors program which engages youth on college campuses, within the courts system, and in partnership with youth-serving organizations.
Destiny Nguyen is a Youth Ambassador with Para Los Niños, and has been with the organization since January 2017. After entering the foster care system at age 15, and facing the overwhelming health challenges of her grandparents with whom she lived, Destiny became disillusioned and misguided in her life direction. While being very smart and intelligent – speaking six languages – life circumstances deterred her off her path, and she eventually dropped out of high school.
While she still hung on to dreams and goals for her life, Destiny became very discouraged with herself for not achieving her goal to complete high school. She learned of Para Los Niños from a friend, and their services for youth her age in all aspects of their lives, and enrolled in their on-site charter school. She took the few remaining classes needed to get her diploma, and with the support of Para Los Niños staff, completed her education at age 20.
Now, she is employed as a Youth Ambassador for Para Los Niños, working to provide access to services by youth who may need direction, support, educational resources, or job training. She is particularly proud of her ability to engage and connect with TAY individuals, and especially as they are directly encountering the challenges of being in foster care as they go through the courts process. It remains an emotional experience for her, but also gives her the ability to empathize with youth going through this experience for the first time. Her warmth, charm and energy allows her to connect with youth; her intelligence helps direct them to much-needed resources.
Para Los Niños is making a significant impact in the lives of youth like Destiny, and with families by providing equal access to educational resources. Their work helps to integrate social and emotional development standards into early child development, and to support at-risk youth and high risk families throughout LA County.