The Life Enhancement and Resource Network (LEARN) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, July 10, for its new Opportunity Center, located west of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Health and Human Services building. Community members of all ages were welcome to see what the new resource center has to offer.
This Opportunity Center will be a valuable resource to members of the Community, both individuals and families. It provides computers, literature, classroom space and educational programs on fatherhood, healthy relationships, personal and family economic self-sufficiency, and much more.
“The Opportunity Center was an idea that came from a federal grant which was initiated by the Fatherhood Program and Healthy Relationships,” said Aaron Charlie, LEARN manager. The two-year grant was offered by the Administration for Native Americans. LEARN received the grant in 2010, and it ends on September 30 of this year.
“This grand opening has been in the making for a couple of years now. We had some delays and we’re behind on having the grand opening, but now [the Opportunity Center is] open. We have attained our sustainability and [funding for further operations after the grant runs out] will fall under the Family Assistance funding stream,” said Kevin Poleyumptewa, senior social worker with the Fatherhood Program.
After the ribbon-cutting by SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier, newly crowned Miss Salt River Martha Ludlow Martinez spoke. She encouraged everyone to take advantage of the opportunities that come with the new center and make a difference in their families’ lives. Afterward, staff from the Opportunity Center provided tours to the more than 50 people who came out to the event.
The grand opening also featured entertainment, games and prizes. Vendors set up warm-weather activities such as inflatable slides, dunk tank, and youth also enjoyed a balloon artist, magician, face painter and a man walking on stilts. Snow cones and popcorn were handed out to everyone as Ernesto Catering prepared hot dogs and hamburgers for lunch.
“I heard several people come back to us with positive statements about the entertainment that afternoon,” Charlie said. The Chinese lion dance was particularly well received by the guests. “It was nice, because those types of performances are not really seen in the Community, and everyone enjoyed that.”
“We are ordering a lot of books and videos that the Community will be able to check out very soon,” said Poleyumptewa. The Opportunity Center will have workshops for Community members and staff, motivational counseling for youth, the ongoing LEARN classes in life enhancement, and the Fatherhood Program and Healthy Relationships. The Family Assistance program has expanded to include female clientele as well, so they also can take advantage of the Opportunity Center classrooms and workshops, as well as the computer lab.
The Opportunity Center has nine computers and is currently looking into getting several laptops for individuals to borrow and check out.
“Reading-literacy software and GED software will be available inside the Center, where individuals will be able to [do] research in cubicles for privacy,” Poleyumptewa said. The Center also wants to offer tutoring services for adults studying to take the GED test. “Clients will be able to prepare for their GED preparation in a fun way, we are not taking over the current GED program just enhancing it for their program.”
“A lot of the adults may not have been in school for many years and need that extra help, and we want to give them that boost,” said Charlie. “Relearning how to learn and study can be very difficult when you haven’t done that in a while.”
LEARN falls under the SRPMIC Social Services Department and is one of several programs to help families in need. Charlie said that the program wants to be known as LEARN, a place where individuals and families can find all kinds of resources to improve themselves and their opportunities.
“We were once known for being under TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families), which is cash assistance, but it’s always been my opinion that people don’t want to be announcing that they are using services from TANF, but rather from LEARN,” said Charlie.
For more information and to learn how to enroll, contact the LEARN Opportunity Center at (480) 362-5680.