Imaginando Mañana Pico-Aliso Community Team Outreach (or IMPACTO) is an after school program for the children of the Boyle Heights community, and also a frequent site location for one of APO’s many service opportunities.
Volunteering at IMPACTO every Friday afternoon, I have come to discover that this community space is more than just a program for kids to come and kick back after school and before going home. On a daily basis, the children of the community are faced with the external pressures associated with low-income neighborhoods. In an atmosphere riddled with drugs, gangs, violence, poor education, and poverty, it is a difficult place for the youth of Boyle Heights to truly grow into the people they aspire to be and that’s where Proyecto Pastoral comes in. Through a number of programs including IMPACTO, this organization aims to expose these children to the resources and support needed to guide them along the path to a brighter future. In order to create this positive change, Proyecto Pastoral has taken many efforts to evoke a community response, with local community members taking a hands-on role in this grassroots movement.
So what does Proyecto Pastoral actually do? This organization runs several community-improvement programs, including the helping the homeless and low-income with the Guadalupe Homeless Project and a thrift store, combating gang violence with Communidad en el Movimiento and the Safe Passage Program, and of course, helping young students through early childhood education centers and IMPACTO. I have spent my past four Fridays volunteering with the children of IMPACTO and can truly say it is a wonderful program. In my time there, I have spent hours playing imaginary games, duck duck goose, and tag in all of its various forms, letting the children explore and develop their creativity and interactive skills in a safe environment. The other volunteers and I have also helped the children with their homework, going through math and spelling worksheets and practicing reading. We also try to incorporate learning into playtime – for example, another volunteer was playing a board game with some children, but everyone would have to correctly answer a math problem before they got to spin the wheel and have their turn. By melding the genres of “fun” and “work” together, we hope that it will encourage the students to get excited about learning and see it as an exciting opportunity instead of an obligation.
While the children range in age and background, one thing they all share is their exuberant energy and willingness to learn. Although not all the kids are initially excited about academics, when approached at the right angle they can always find a way to make it fun – and none of this would be happening if it weren’t for the people of IMPACTO. As their title states, they truly are imagining tomorrow.