Inside what used to be Beacon Hill Elementary you can still find colorful artwork and hear lots of chatter because it’s home to a non-profit that was born in the 70s.
“El Centro de la Raza which we translate as The Center for People of All Races, has been serving the community for over 50 years,” said Miguel Maestas.
Miguel is the Associate Director at El Centro. His uncle, Roberto Maestas, was one of the original founders.
“It was a multi-racial coalition… There was support from the Black community, the Indigenous community, Asian and Pacific Islander community,” said Miguel.
At that time, Miguel says there was a desperate need for basic resources among these communities.
“In the Latino community, there were no centers, or places people could go to find help or even to connect,” said Miguel.
When El Centro first started, they offered English classes at South Seattle Community College, shortly after they moved into the school building.
Today the non-profit offers 43 different services, including daycare, educational programs, and affordable housing.
They also run a food bank three days a week. Estrella Constanzo is the woman greeting everyone.
She came to El Centro at the age of 15, shortly after arriving from Chile.
“I came in 1978, with my parents. My father was a political refugee,” said Constanzo.
She learned about English classes from other immigrants.
“I came from a little town in my country, very poor and came to this big country, it was a big deal… nobody speak Spanish,” said Constanzo.
Estrella and her mother spent a lot of time at El Centro, helping however they could.
She eventually landed a job at the daycare. Constanzo says the children she took care of reminded her of herself.
“Niños que cuidaba de refugiados Argentinos,” said Constanzo. Translation: Children I looked over were Argentinean refugees.
After five years at El Centro, Estrella moved on, but life eventually brought her full circle, and she now works alongside her daughter.
“Primero volvió mi hija, por la historia que yo le conté del Centro,” said Constanzo. Translation: First my daughter returned because the story I told her about the center.
Estrella’s family is one of many who have come back to El Centro. She says by giving back they are supporting communities and uplifting tomorrow’s generations.
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