Generations Center for Youth, Adults & Seniors

The La Maestra Foundation’s Generations Center for Youth, Adults & Seniors launched in 2012 to offer a safe, central space in the diverse community of City Heights, where residents of various age spans can learn new skills, access resources, and achieve self-sufficiency in order to be equipped for better educational and economic opportunities. Generations’ programs and services are provided at free or very low-cost, thanks to the generous support of La Maestra’s funders, community partners and volunteers.

Specific services include field trips, guest speakers, career exploration, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math), music, dance and performing arts classes, fine art and multimedia lessons. For older adults, the Generations Center offers art classes such as drawing, painting, and ceramics, floral arrangement, jewelry, knitting, and sewing classes, and music lessons. Classes are designed to help facilitate self-expression through art and help clients gain a better understanding of their emotional conflicts, improve social skills and self-esteem, and reduce anxiety.

Generations was given the opportunity to move to a new location on Wightman Street, only three blocks away from the original location. The new location brings forth the opportunity to create additional partnerships with the City Heights/Weingart Public Library, the City Heights Recreation Center, and the Mid-City Gym to provide the students a safe environment for playing and learning. Families are excited to have access to more resources and for the new space. However, in light of the recent spread of COVID-19 throughout the country, Generations has closed on-site operations. However, the program is working towards building a virtual curriculum with a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM). In addition, Generations continues to inform families of additional learning and nutrition resources provided by La Maestra Family Clinic, Inc. and also the San Diego Unified School District, while the schools are closed and operating remotely. The Generations Team looks forward to welcoming back the students for inperson classes when it is safe to operate in-person. In the meantime, Generations staff continues to make plans for exciting new programming for the students in a virtual and perhaps a hybrid setting.

Music

Many students expressed interest in learning about rock music, so instructor Omar Bernal teamed up with Christopher Ewald to teach students the history of rock, as well as the key components of rock music. The students were given overviews on how to play the electric bass guitar, the drums, and the piano in harmony and on the same beat. With continued practice, the group became more synchronized with one another, sounding better and more cohesive each day. Their goal is to be able to play two songs together as a band, including Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up,” and Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Doors.” Other students expressed interest in learning about corridos. Corridos is a Mexican regional genre that focuses on stories and achievements made by popular or unpopular personalities. This genre demands a higher level of skills from the guitarists due to the tempo (speed) of the songs and the complexity of the chords (harmony). Students came in daily to practice their guitar and vocal abilities, with the goal of learning to perform a few different corridos to be showcased in one of the theater performances.

CYA’s Latin Jazz ensemble had been practicing regularly off-site throughout the quarter, under the guidance of San Diego Opera (SDO) teaching artist, Bill Caballero. This quarter the students of the Latin Jazz ensemble continued to perform at various locations around San Diego, including different eateries around Barrio Logan. Their high energy performances attract large crowds and have garnered students an invite to perform at music festivals around the city.

Art

Before the suspension of on-site operations, art classes consisted of an open studio and sculpture workshops, as well as creating repurposed art and crafts to sell as part of the Valentine’s Day Bazaar. Students are often encouraged to create pieces that engage their imagination and express their emotions, but before beginning, students are required to sketch their creations, choose a color palette, and discuss the style of their pieces.

“The art classes at CYA have taught me so much about myself as a young person in this world and as
a creative person. It taught me how to think outside the box, and that a small mistake shouldn’t
stop me, but instead, it can help me think of creative solutions and help me start something new.
It made me realize that I have more than one path in my life. I have so many talents and with
support, I can go to so many places.
We are a community and we are all in this together.”

-Nohemi (Age 14)

The Circle is a great way to continue building community and strengthening bonds between staff and students. It builds trust and care as well as acts as a great tool for conflict resolution. CYA continued to hold empowerment groups where students could freely discuss issues that they may not feel comfortable sharing in a larger group. Recently, CYA began separating the groups by age, in order to hold age appropriate discussions. Students enjoy taking part in the Circle as it is a safe environment to discuss issues and events that are on their mind. Many students are exposed at an early age to drugs, gang violence, social exclusion, parent deportations, homelessness, and incarceration. CYA’s “Circle time” gives the students the opportunity to check in with staff about their emotional and social well-being as well as seek support from their peers. By allowing the students to have input on the way the Circle is run they become more engaged and responsive during these activities.

Since COVID-19 has created the need for social distancing by reducing physical distance, many of
the youth have seen the need to increase connections with their peers, which is an important aspect
that relates to emotional well- being. A lack of social connection has been known to increase stress and diminish emotional resilience. A few CYA staff members voluntarily host a virtual Circle so that the students would have the opportunity to reconnect with one another, discuss their experiences with COVID-19, schooling during a pandemic, learn about mindfulness, and even express
their worries about financial instability and the well-being of their families. The students have really enjoyed speaking about their experiences and emotions, finding the experiences of others as
relatable as their own.

“My favorite part of the CYA program is restorative circle time. It’s a great time to be able to
express yourself and how you’re feeling. It’s a time where we all get together to talk and meet new
people. I am able to be myself and make new friends while letting people see all parts of me. I
think without the virtual circle times getting through this pandemic would be really hard. This way
I’m still able to connect with my friends and see that other people are feeling the same way I am
feeling about everything.”

-Synthya (Age 13)

Steam

The students were given the opportunity to work on STEAM-related activities throughout the months,
led by Archie Baza and Giselle Rocha, in collaboration with UCSD’s CREATE STEM Success Initiative.
CREATE partners with youth organizations and the San Diego education community to support STEM
education in the region. In the first quarter of 2020, students explore chemistry through slime and
“foam monsters,” magnetic fields, and creating their own optical illusions, as well as engineering
and aerodynamics through rocket building. Each of these experiments is conducted in a safe and
engaging way, guaranteed to ensure that the students enjoy learning science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics and
conducting their own experiments.

Gardening and harvesting produce was also a productive and successful venture as the kids continued
to water and maintain a healthy environment, in both raised beds and the surrounding garden, to
ensure that the crops had amble water, healthy soil, and sunlight. The students have been working
hard to prepare the garden boxes from being able to sustain and grow flowers back to vegetables.
This transition requires the students to dig up the remaining flowers so that the soil can be
turned up, fertilized with compost, and then reseeded. The remaining flowers were donated to
Blossoms for their weekly floral arranging classes. This season the students planted radishes,
lettuce, kale, bell peppers, mint, tomatoes, and swiss chard. The students plan to continue growing
different plants and flowers upon their return to the in-person program. The students gathered the
harvested crops and created a bounty of fruits, vegetables, and herbs for Generations families to
choose from and take home to create nutritious meals. The idea of developing seed and soil boxes
for virtual gardening sessions is also being explored and the organization is just waiting on grant
funding in order to implement this program during the stay at home order.

Administration and senior staff are working on a possible collaboration between Generations and the
T.R.A.C.E. (Transition Resources for Adult Community Education) led by Marco Reyes. T.R.A.C.E. is
a part of the San Diego Unified School District, and is an educational support network to assist
young adults with disabilities as they transition from high school to adult life. This meeting
focused on bringing some of the adults from their program into our adult classes to start gardening
and learning different skills. The T.R.A.C.E. team has sent over legal documentation for review to
ensure the proper liabilities are in place before the partnership begins. However, this has been
postponed in light of COVID-19.

“In the STEAM Gardening program, I learned about something called cross-breeding with plants and
the instructors encouraged me to experiment with the plants that we have in the garden. It’s really
cool!
I tried cross-pollinating pumpkin and watermelon flowers to see if I could create a hybrid fruit.
It didn’t work out, but it was still really fun to try because I got to take the plants home and
observe them and take care of them. I want to try crossing different peppers soon.”

-Salahadin (Age 13)

Theater

“Being a part of the theater program has been one of the greatest experiences at CYA. It has given
me the chance to express myself creatively and lets me be free. Normally I don’t get the chance to
talk about the things I’m worried about, but with theater, I can. We’ve worked on some really cool
projects that I wouldn’t have ever thought I would be a part of. CYA gives me a place that I can go
to be a part of a team. It’s great!”

-Brayan (Age 13)

The students continued to work with the Youth Theater Program in collaboration with the San Diego
Opera (SDO) through weekly virtual screenwriting and acting classes with a total of 20
participants. Students were eager to engage in the curriculum taught by SDO teaching artists,
Inocente and Joey. The students are broken down into two groups to ensure age-appropriate
instruction- youth 7th grade and below and youth 8th grade and above.

The older group of students engaged in discussions about the current global pandemic, racism, and
anti- racism, civil rights, immigration, issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, mental health,
climate change, human trafficking, food insecurity, and housing insecurity. The older students
wanted to delve into many issues at once because they saw the interconnection of many of these
issues. Numerous students took part in virtual restorative circles, making it easier to share their
thoughts on these topics during these classes as well. They created videos based on their writing
and incorporated the acting skills that they learned while participating in the program. The
students were able to share their work with their peers and receive feedback on their writing and
presentation. The students were Invited to come in small groups, and in accordance with COVID-19
safety guidelines, to film themselves reciting their written pieces; all pieces were then combined
in a film montage to create a powerful piece of art.

In addition to the video project, Generations students were invited to collaborate with Casa
Familiar and SDO on a project entitled, “Healing Through Storytelling,” in which students worked on
writing pieces to share their personal experiences and talk about their family’s stories. This
project is ongoing and will resume in January after a short break. The students will also be
working on a piece that they will submit for consideration to be shown at the Latino Film Festival.

The younger group opted to focus on the pandemic. The students were encouraged to write a piece
about how their lives have been impacted in the past nine months and how they and their families
have been dealing with these issues. They were also asked to create a corresponding art piece that
would serve as the background for their monologue.

Hot Food and Diaper Distribution

Looking for a way to continue to support program participants and community members, CYA expanded
its existing partnership with Feeding San Diego. Food insecurity is one of the biggest issues
low-income communities are facing due to job loss as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To meet the
needs of the community CYA, under Generations, began to run a daily hot meal distribution site by
distributing 100 meals a day, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until the food is
gone. Hot meals usually only last one hour an indication of the immense need in this community.
Since the start of the state-mandated stay at home order, more than 45,000 meals have been
distributed to youth and families across the City Heights community.

Generations also took part in the diaper drive and distribution program, ensuring that families
with small children were able to receive essential supplies that tend to be costly. In response to
the community’s need, La Maestra worked with Price Philanthropies to participate in a Diaper
Distribution event. So far, they have been able to distribute over 174,000 diapers to help 326
families and 500 children. In addition, La Maestra became a Diaper Bank with the assistance of San
Diego Food Bank now in addition to healthy food for the food pantry La Maestra also is able to
order diapers to distribute to the community. La Maestra has also received donations from
UnitedHealthcare in the form of diaper wipes and floor decals to assist with spacing of at least
six-feet apart at distribution events.

Additionally, AT&T Pioneers Network graciously donated a variety of gifts and supplies that
Generations staff was able to distribute to families in need this holiday season. The first
donations included 35 backpacks containing school supplies that the children would need, this
included notebooks, pencils, pens, art
supplies, and more. To date, 15 of these backpacks were distributed to children in 5th grade and
below, while the remaining 20 were distributed to students in 6th grade and above. The second set
of donations received by the AT&T Pioneers Network included 20-holiday stockings filled with
goodies and toys. These stockings were distributed to children ages 9 and younger.

Generations staff has also taken the time to refer families to the different programs that La
Maestra has to offer, including information on primary care and specialty care services at the
clinic, the Healthy Choices Food Pantry, CalFresh eligibility, and enrollment assistance, and many
others. Families were excited and grateful to receive support from the organization during these difficult times. La Maestra has been working diligently to provide hunger relief to a community severely affected by COVID-19, in an effort to ensure that families are able to navigate this time with as little stress as possible.

Yoga

Brianda Vargas continued to create a Yoga and Mindfulness curriculum that focuses on using
restorative practices to heal and better understand emotions. The focus of this curriculum is on
teaching the students about the importance of self-care for one’s body, mind, and soul. Various
activities were implemented to show the students different techniques for taking time out of the day to reflect and destress. Students learned that by moving their body they would be able to release pent-up energy that could cause anxiety and tension. The students participated in a variety of exercises, including taking walks and taking part in relay races. Students were able to better understand the connection between a healthy body and a healthy
mind.

Adult Classes –

Generations adult classes continued and provide a creative outlet for community members to sew,
design and create jewelry, knitting, paint and create various artwork, practice yoga, and write and
play music. Other classes included floral arranging at Blossoms, Microcredit meetings and workshops, and computer classes.

Sewing

The adult sewing classes continue to be held once a week for three hours following proper social
distancing protocol, including maintaining six or more feet of space between students, gathering in
groups smaller than ten people, and masks are required and to be worn at all times. There are
currently seven students who regularly participate in these classes. Students have enjoyed being
able to return to the class and have begun working on different projects, learning, and
strengthening seamstress skills, and using these skills in the Microcredit group to learn about
marketing and selling their handmade products. The students were encouraged to continue creating
pieces and all materials were provided via various grants and donations for students to make their
textiles.

Blossoms Floral Arrangements

Blossoms staff teaches a floral arranging class every Thursday from 11 to 1 p.m. Class records show
a total of 92 individuals in attendances for this past quarter, as well as a total of three new
students. During this class students are presented with a model flower arrangement prepared by the
instructor, Constanza Gonzalez; this example gives the students an idea for the base or foundation
of the piece, but they are encouraged to make it more personal in how they arrange the flowers.
Students often use seasonal flowers and flowers grown in the Garden of Life Community Garden in
their floral arrangements.

Blossoms always participates at all La Maestra health fairs and bazaars, and gives out information
to prospective students to promote all services offered. This year, at the annual Generations
Valentine’s Day Bazaar held on Feb. 14, 2020, the staff participated by creating arrangements to be
sold to the public. Instructors, Constanza Gonzalez and Laura Sanchez, attended an open house where they were able to
showcase pieces created at the floral arranging class and on sale at Blossoms. As brand ambassadors
Gonzalez and Sanchez promote the program to the public and other supporters. In 2020, a large
floral arrangement was delivered to San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and other
community leaders. Participants in Blossoms classes are constantly learning the latest techniques
of floral design and are encouraged to use new floral products on the market.

Computer

Classes continued to be offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:30
a.m. to 12:30 p.m. until the CDC recommended the suspension of all on-site operations due to the
COVID-19 pandemic. This class helps adults build self-confidence and to start using computers,
which many students are often intimidated to use initially.
The course teaches students to use the Microsoft Suite including Microsoft Word and Excel. Students
learn basic keyboard skills, how to create and save documents, as well as how to navigate the
internet and

use different media platforms. Students who started with no knowledge of how to use a computer have
shown improvement and proficiency in their abilities to use a computer. Many students have reported
feelings of confidence and shown that they can do simply computing such as creating a word document
and getting on the internet to look up information without the help of an instructor.

“I started attending the computer class at La Maestra after my daughter recommended that I check
out the class. I hardly knew how to use the computer, let alone navigate the internet and the
different programs on it. Thanks to the instructor I became more confident in my ability to use it
and have found it easier to complete different tasks using the computer at work. Before I would
always have to ask my coworkers for help, but it is so much easier for me now.”

-Martha

Art

Adult art classes continued to be offered on-site, three times per week. Despite the pandemic many
long- time participants continued their work, but opted for a somewhat staggered schedule to ensure
safety. The partnership with GenerateHope continued with an off-site class being offered every
other Thursday. Many of the projects are designed to have a therapeutic effect; self-expression
through art, and the resulting artwork, helps clients gain a better understanding of their
emotional conflicts, improves social skills, improves self- esteem, reduces anxiety, and can bring
a sense of normalcy to their lives during this difficult time.

The Generations adult art program has branched out to teaching classes for an adult outreach
program, in collaboration with Central Elementary School and the San Diego Unified School District.
Many of the parents in this group had no experience with making ceramics or other artwork, so this
was an exciting opportunity for them to experiment with their creativity. Due to their inexperience
working with clay and other tools, this activity required a lot of hands-on and step-by-step
guidance from the instructor. Many students expressed that working with their hands was therapeutic
for them, allowing them time to focus solely on the project at hand and to not worry about the many
other stressors in their lives. The students are elated at the prospect of another class in the
near future.

Instructors are looking forward to the return of on-site classes to continue in these partnerships
and to continue to introduce students to an arts education that is beneficial to their emotional
well-being.

Yoga

The (Adult) Yoga and Mindfulness class is for beginners or people
who are limited in range of motion. Yoga Instructor, Brianda Vargas
encourages self-love and self-compassion and invites students to
create body awareness in order to explore their limitations and to
find their edge for their individual practice. This is done in a positive
and safe environment in order to help students learn and grow in
their Yoga abilities. Students are encouraged to create a mindfulness
practice by noticing their body and responding to their
individualized needs.

Music

The Music Program (Adult & Advanced Students) varies in schedule
depending on the availability of the students. Students tend to come
in on different days, but the flexibility of the music class schedule has
allowed them to find a time that works best for them. The lesson plans
for these classes depends on the skill level of each student as well. The
more advanced students continue to learn music theory and study
classical guitarists and pianists.