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UNCE opens Plaza Comunitaria in Las Vegas

Posted 4/1/2009

Opening of the Plaza Comunitaria at the Cambridge Center in Las Vegas

Zoraida Caldera, program director for Plaza
Communitaria at the Cambridge Center; the
Mexican consul of Nevada, Mariano Lemus Gas;
UNCE Dean and Director Karen Hinton; Sarai
Hernandez; and General Director of National
Institute of Adult Education (INEA),
Lic. Juan de Dios Castro Muñoz.

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has partnered with the Mexican government to launch a Plaza Comunitaria program in Las Vegas to help Hispanic immigrants earn their high school degree in Spanish while they continue to develop their skills in English.

Plaza Comunitaria was developed by the government of Mexico to provide Mexicans and Latinos living abroad the opportunity to begin, continue or improve their education in Spanish. A key goal of the program is to help immigrants overcome language barriers, economic factors, and unresolved documentation issues that can all result in Latino students dropping out of school. Immigrants who stay in school have a more promising future and help provide a stronger workforce for their communities.

Plaza Comunitaria is presented in Spanish and is for Spanish-speaking people who need to finish their elementary or secondary education in the Mexican school system and become eligible to take the General Education Development or GED exam. The program curriculum is presented online, and in video, audio or print. This free program allows the participant to study when it is convenient and to get help from trained volunteer tutors. There are more the 250 Plaza Comunitaria programs throughout the country.

The curriculum also features courses in English as a second language and computers. There also is a wide range of resources and materials in Spanish addressing health issues, family values, job skills and other topics.

The UNCE program will be conducted out of the Cambridge Community Center at 3930 Cambridge St. near Flamingo Road and Maryland Parkway. It is the first Plaza Comunitaria program in Nevada outside of a program conducted by the Clark County School District at eight schools where the student population is largely Hispanic.

UNCE community-based educator Zoraida Caldera said enrollment in Plaza Comunitaria at the Cambridge Center has nearly quadrupled to 45 students in the week since the program launched. The students’ needs run from basic literacy — learning to read and write — to finishing work on high school diplomas.

Caldera said she has 12 tutors who volunteer to meet with enrollees when they need extra help or need to take an exam in order to move on to the next level of instruction.

"The volunteers are very important and necessary," Caldera said. "We have been making the steps and we are making firm steps."

The grand opening of the Cooperative Extension Plaza Comunitaria project was held on March 20 at the Cambridge Center and was attended by General Director of National Institute of Adult Education (INEA), Lic. Juan de Dios Castro Muñoz, along with Lic. Mariano Lemus Gas from the Mexican Counsul. UNCE Dean and Director Karen Hinton, Southern Area Director Jill Ukeiley, Family Interactions Specialist Dr. Geoffrey Leigh and Caldera were also on hand, as was UNCE school retention specialist Nora Luna.

For more information, please contact Caldera at 702-257-5570 or e-mail calderaz@unce.unr.edu.

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