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Combatting Poverty Through Education

It began with a simple question.

“Will you teach me English?”

When a young Spanish speaking woman asked this question to Sister Trinitas, a Daughter of Charity who had recently moved to East Palo Alto on a mission to combat poverty, she answered with a resolute “Yes.”

This was the missing piece for many underserved families in the community. Spanish speaking residents needed a safe, welcoming educational program that supported English language acquisition, while providing child supervision, so that they could be confident in talking to their children’s teachers, interviewing for jobs, discussing medical care for loved ones, and much more.

As the first few students continued their lessons with Sister Trinitas, they became more proficient in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing English, and the genesis of the Rosalie Rendu Center was underway.

The Early Years

Sister Trinitas and the Daughters of Charity quickly saw how providing English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in East Palo Alto – a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood with historically high crime rates and low performing schools – could help break the cycle of poverty.

Knowing that a dedicated space was necessary to conduct classes, Sister Trinitas used grant money to rent space in the Carriage Manor Apartments. In January 1998, the first official ESL classes were offered for local community members. Today, as many as a hundred adults and children benefit annually from the services that are offered year-round at the Rosalie Rendu Center.

A fortuitous partnership with the Junior League of Palo Alto-Mid Peninsula (JLPA•MP) in the first few years of the Rosalie Rendu Center provided the much needed resources for the rapidly expanding programs. The League provided funding, volunteers, and expertise to help Sister Trinitas provide a range of ESL classes for the community.

Members of the JLPA•MP are credited for being the driving force behind the powerful fundraising campaign in 2000 that allowed the Daughters of Charity to purchase Carriage Manor Apartments and prevent the facilities from being developed into upscale condominiums and 46 families from being displaced. The sale secured a permanent location for the Rosalie Rendu Center to continue its programs, and preserved low-income housing opportunities for community residents.

Even though the JLPA•MP’s formal partnership with the Rosalie Rendu Center was completed in 2007, many League members have stayed actively involved by serving on the Advisory Board, making annual donations, and volunteering for various programs throughout the year.

Opportunities for All

Since the day Sister Trinitas began teaching English to her first student, the Rosalie Rendu Center has welcomed all members of the community to participate in its programs and activities.

The Rosalie Rendu Center continues to innovate and expand its offerings to fulfill the mission of combating poverty by “educating, mentoring and raising the self-esteem of the entire family” throughout the East Palo Alto community.

Where seeds are planted
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