(WBRE/WYOU-TV) HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY -Uniting people of all cultures not only during Hispanic Heritage Month but all year long that’s the mission of a Luzerne-County Based Community Organization.
WBRE 28 WYOU 22 Eyewitness News Reporter Madonna Mantione Explains.
The Hazleton Integration Project was founded in 2011. Finding a home in a former catholic school building on East 4th Street. The building was renovated and turned into a community center.
since then, the non-profit has made educational, cultural, and athletic programs available at little or no cost to economically disadvantaged children and adults in the area.
“We think that it’s important for every community to take a look and make sure that every kid has the opportunity to succeed to their highest level,” stresses Bob Curry, Founding President, Hazleton Integration Project
Promoting diversity and inclusion among all of the region’s ethnic cultures is a guiding principle.
The center offers language and citizenship classes and has partnerships with Penn State And Bloomsburg Universities.
Curry says it’s all to build pathways to college, scholarships, and a better community.
“We have kids, when we started, who were in our courses and as they got older, and they got into high school or even college, they became mentors to our younger kids.”
One of those mentors is Maria Aliaga, a recent Northwestern University Graduate.
She serves as the educational coordinator, helping students learn one-on-one.
“In schools, you know, they have a curriculum that they have to follow and certain things and milestones that they have to meet. And so then sometimes the issue is that learning isn’t always fun. So then for us, our philosophy for our program is we want to make learning fun,” Said Maria Aliaga, Educational Coordinator, Hazleton Integration Project
It’s a role that means a lot to Aliaga.
She came to Hazleton from Peru with her family when she was two and faced some obstacles adjusting to a new home.
“Having immigrant parents who mainly only spoke Spanish, homework was horrible. I couldn’t have anybody to help me, I didn’t have anyone to explain things to me. Even when it was easy math stuff, it was simply reading the prompts that my parents couldn’t even get past. So, then that’s what’s important for me here. Helping these kids who might not have the resources available to all of the other ones simply because of a language barrier.”
The mission of the center strongly impacts families in the Hazleton community and beyond.
“For us, and at least my personal goal is to make sure that all these kids have someone there to be able to ensure that they can understand what they are doing, and also have somebody as an extra support besides their parents,” said Aliaga.
The Hazleton Integration Project was the idea of Hazleton native and Major League Baseball Manager Joe Maddon.
Learn more about the Hazleton Integration Project