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Founded in 1994, Centro Nueva Creación (Centro) promotes resilience in young people through educational enrichment and engagement with the arts and Latino cultures.
Situated in Fairhill, the heart of the Philadelphia Latino community, Centro was established in response to community members' concerns about the negative impact of neighborhood violence on their children. Fairhill, labeled the "Badlands" by the media, has a history of violence sustained by drug sales and poverty.
Centro's programs demand an asset-based approach to working with young people in their community. To that end, in 2000 Centro created the Goodlands-a photography program to empower young people to focus on the positive aspects of their neighborhood. Since then, the Goodlands has continued to utilize children's inherent strengths to contribute to the positive development of themselves and their community, not only through photography, but also poetry, Bomba (traditional Puerto Rican dance, percussion, and singing), and mural making.
Centro's goal is to offer experiences to Fairhill's young people that contribute to their success in and out of school. Centro reaches its goals by: 1) utilizing the project-based learning (PBL) method to engage children in arts and Latino cultural programming; 2) offering homework help; and 3) engaging children's families and community in programming.
PBL is an innovative approach to instruction that engages students in hands-on, interdisciplinary activities that appeal to their interests. PBL presents children with problems that demand the use of critical thinking, creativity, communication, and teamwork. Each project culminates with a student showcase. Children's families, teachers, peers, and school community are invited to exhibitions of their artistic work and cultural performances.
Centro leverages local resources through strategic partnerships with the Department of Human Services, School District of Philadelphia, Mural Arts Program, Bridging the Gaps, University of the Arts, St. Joseph's University, Temple University, Philareyto, ArtsRising, and the Kensington EPIC Stakeholders.
Today Fairhill is still one of Philadelphia's most depressed and dangerous neighborhoods: 60% of Fairhill's residents live below the poverty level; more than 50 % of Fairhill's children do not graduate from high school; and drugs sales are a Fairhill industry. Currently Centro serves more than 100 elementary and middle school children annually and maintains a waiting list. Parents rely on Centro as a safe haven for their children, a resource to help their children understand their homework, and a creative and encouraging environment for their children's social and emotional growth. Centro's services are as important in 2013 as they were in 1994.