The longstanding community organization and the largest Hispanic-led nonprofit social services in the Centra Valley, El Concilio California, has expanded operations with the creation of the affiliate 501(c)(3) El Concilio California Academies – the independent K-12 nonprofit educational arm of the agency that will open its first charter school – the Astronaut José M. Hernández Academy – for grades K-8 in Stockton this school year.
“The formation of El Concilio California Academies, or ECC Academies for short, is a natural progression for us,” El Concilio California president and CEO and ECC Academies Board Chair, José R. Rodriguez stated. “It’s built upon our founding agency’s 50 years of experience providing comprehensive, early education for each stage of development at our Early Childhood Development Centers that provide research-based curriculum for infants, toddlers, and preschool aged children in a nurturing environment that promotes proper physical, mental, cognitive, social, and emotional development.”
ECC Academies will continue the personalized support and connections that the children receive at its parent agency’s Early Childhood Development Centers. Scheduled to open on August 10, 2022, and available to all Stockton students, the newly named Astronaut José M. Hernández Academy charter school, with a current capacity of 350 students and having plenty of room for future growth, will continue to provide students and families with a solid communal bond found in its Early Childhood Development Centers.
Meeting Rodriguez at the new school, one of the first things we wanted to know was how it all came about. “We had been developing plans to open a charter school going back several years,” Rodriguez quickly responded. “So, when we were approached to take over the former Delta Bridges Charter School and make it our own, it seemed fortuitous and timely. We already had the vision and the plan – now, we had the school.”
While taking us on a tour of the newly renovated charter school, Rodriguez continued, “we’ve known for some time that our Development Center kids, and their parents are sad to leave the El Concilio California family after graduating from one of our Centers to go onto elementary school. But with the formation of ECC Academies and its charter schools, that consistency of messaging and values, supports and resources will continue.” Looking across the new Stockton campus, Rodriguez opined, “we have been creating a path for children to enter elementary school and achieve future academic success for 50 years. Now with ECC Academies, all of Stockton’s children will be able to benefit from a coordinated parent involvement and positive teacher-child relationships that stem from the core values of our Development Centers.”
Named in honor of former NASA Astronaut José M. Hernández – perhaps the most famous child of a local immigrant family – the new school for grades K-8 will provide students with a dual-language immersion (English and Spanish) STEM-focused curriculum. “STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics,” Rodriguez noted, “and of course the Arts.” The integration of the dual-language curriculum is significant because it is an instructional model that can help reduce the achievement gap between native English speakers and ELL (English Language Learner) students. “Research has shown that in an increasingly globalized world, those who know both English and another language will have economic and political advantages” Rodriguez stressed. “Having an in-depth knowledge of another language has been shown to contribute to a cognitive benefit in creativity and metalinguistic awareness and enhanced cross-cultural understanding. And other research has shown that students enrolled in Dual Language programs are more likely to stay in school and continue into post-secondary education.”
“I’m honored that the school is being named after me,” Astronaut José M. Hernández said in a recent interview. “I hope that the school’s name inspires the students to dream big and realize that it doesn’t matter where you start but where you end up.” He also hopes that the school is a conduit to turn the students’ dreams into a reality. “José Hernández personifies what the school represents,” Rodriguez impressed, “that through tenacity everyone can achieve their dreams and develop their God-given abilities.”
In continuous operation for over 54 years, El Concilio California is guided by its trusted mission to uplift and advocate for California’s marginalized, minority, economically segregated populations, and communities of color by providing access to crucial services, programs, and resources to increase physical, psychological, and economic well-being. Providing access and services to over 75,000 individuals and families annually through a whole-person approach, El Concilio California helps people create better futures for themselves and their families, become leaders to the community, and in turn empower others.
With 12 locations and 24 satellite offices in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Contra Costa counties, with selected services to Calaveras, Kern, Madera, and Merced counties, the agency’s programs, outreach, community involvement and financial status have steadily grown to an annual budget of $25.73 million, serving children, youths, adults, seniors, and families through its six departments offering over 40 essential programs and 24 responsive projects and services in health and human services, child education and development, behavioral and mental health, adult education and workforce development, immigration and survivor legal services, as well as civic engagement and leadership development.
Now with the creation of ECC Academies, students at both the Elementary, and Middle School can expect to be challenged and stretched by all their teachers in the myriad art, science, math, and humanities courses that they offer. With invested faculty advisors, the Academy’s classrooms will be collaborative spaces, guided by teachers who care deeply for their students. For the new school’s principal, Donita Drulias-Daumer, “it’s about embracing and supporting everyone who is a part of the ECC Family both in the classroom and in the community.” Joining us on our tour, Drulias-Daumer’s pride is evident. “We are talking about an atmosphere where students will be encouraged to try things outside of their comfort zones, without needless anxieties and pressures to conform. ECC Academies is not only a continuation of the unique community relationships built at El Concilio California, but also an opportunity to effectively forward the long-term goals and objectives of both the agency and ECC Academies for increasing equity for all based in respect, integrity, and success.”
ECC Academies’ mission is to inspire a diverse community of students to moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and physical excellence so that each may rise to honorable achievement and contribute to the common good, guided by the principles of Respect, Integrity, and Success through Education. ECC Academies seeks to empower students, especially those of color and those in underserved communities, to embrace educational opportunities. It does so by providing teachers, counselors, and positive role models in a supportive community setting with defined expectations and achievable goals. In the short term, the program seeks to strengthen each student’s academic achievement, self-awareness, and self-efficacy. In the longer term, ECC Academies seeks to inspire our students to pursue post-secondary education and fulfilling careers. For more information about ECC Academies and how to enroll your child in their new Astronaut José M. Hernández Academy, you can find them online at www.ECCAcademies.org