Voces Ciudadanas leads the Coalition for Community Space. Launched in 2022, the Coalition works to keep and reimagine the Sunset Park Interim library space as a community led space with community resources. In late 2023, the Sunset Park branch of the Brooklyn Public Library will move back to a renovated home on 51st Street and 4th avenue, providing an opportunity for community members and organizations to rethink the over 20,000 square foot space as a multigenerational and multiuse hub.
The Parent Leadership Development Project aims to build public school parents’ leadership capacity. The project was a byproduct of our “Make Space for Schools Campaign.” The campaign highlighted the ability of low-income parents to lead social change. Still, it also revealed the limited support and opportunities that public school parents receive from their schools or the Department Of Education to enhance their leadership.
While there are formal bodies such as the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), School Leadership Team (SLT), or Community Education Council (CEC) where parents can develop their leadership, these formal bodies do not receive much support and parents, mainly low-income immigrant parents are left without the tools to be able to build power within these formal bodies.
The purpose of this project is to foster and strengthen the leadership skills of immigrant parents. The project offers parents training to develop public speaking skills, learn engaging facilitation techniques, devise creative outreach strategies, and design campaigns to organize other parents. The project provides immigrant parents with a space for personal growth and empowerment. We believe that building the leadership skills of immigrant parents will ensure that our voices are heard. And that they will have a long-lasting impact on our schools and communities.
Make Space for Schools (MSS) is a parent-led campaign that emerged from the need to reduce overcrowding in Sunset Park public schools. The campaign brought together Latin American and Chinese low-income immigrant parents. Make Space for Schools received the support of community organizations and elected officials in the neighborhood, creating 1,880 new seats and five new school buildings in the neighborhood.
Currently, the MSS campaign aims to ensure that the new schools in the neighborhood are built to address the specific needs of Sunset Park families and children. As part of this new phase of the campaign, we started a process of creating a vision for the new schools. We carried out a visioning event in May 2017 and conducted extensive outreach to close to 400 parents in Sunset Park and wrote the report, “Vision for New Schools in Sunset Park,” with the specific recommendations born out of this process.
Keep Public Schools Public aims to prevent the encroachment of charter schools in Sunset Park. In the past couple of years, we have seen an increase in the number of charter school applications that want to open in our neighborhood. We started this campaign because we believe that public funding should be spent in public schools and that these schools should be accountable to the public. Charter schools have a poor record of addressing special education children’s educational needs and English Language Learners, who represent most Sunset Park students. As part of this campaign, we have organized several postcard-signing drives and a social media campaign supported by our elected officials and several community organizations (See launching video at https://vimeo.com/320077863 and for viewing of all media posts, see our Facebook page @vocesciudadanasinc or #keeppublicschoolspublic).
Defensores is a project that seeks to build leadership among Latino immigrants by providing the training and tools necessary to connect immigrant families to resources. The leaders, also called Defensores, aim to empower immigrant families by providing know-your-rights training and by organizing actions and campaigns. The program grew from conversations with immigrant families following the 2016 presidential election. Defensores uses a peer-based model that has proven successful in conducting outreach among Latino immigrants in other contexts. Defensores use their ties to and knowledge of the community to build and strengthen relationships and trust among immigrants and to pass on critical information and referrals.