Children in a classroom

The Oregon Community Foundation and Central Oregon Health Council are partnering with Juntos Aprendemos to expand access to early literacy and kindergarten readiness for Central Oregon families in Jefferson County and other parts of the region. A program of the High Desert Education Service District, Juntos Aprendemos (Together We Learn) equips 3 to 5-year-old children and their parents with the early literacy and school readiness skills needed to overcome barriers facing Spanish-speaking children in Central Oregon.

Central Oregon’s Juntos Aprendemos program started in 2019 and currently serves 60 students and their parents with two locations in Bend (Jewel Elementary School and the Bend-La Pine district office) and morning and evening classes in Redmond at Hugh Hartman Elementary School. The funding will help expand the program to serve families in Jefferson County and beyond.

“It’s been our goal, our dream, to expand outside of Deschutes County and now we have funding to make it possible and for three years,” said Juntos Aprendemos Program Manager Gabriela Peden. “It was never intended to be a Bend-centered program, it has always been designed to serve children and families from all of Central Oregon and the fact that it’s happening now is so exciting.”

The GO Kids grant, funded by the Fred W. Fields Fund of Oregon Community Foundation provides $45,000 to support early literacy. Community Grants totaling $31,000 funded by the Robert W. Chandler II Fund of Oregon Community Foundation ($6,000.00), the Schamp Family Fund of Oregon Community Foundation ($15,000.00) and an Anonymous Fund of Oregon Community Foundation ($10,000.00) will allow the program to expand to Jefferson County. From the Central Oregon Health Council, Juntos Aprendemos received $65,080 to expand the program.

“We currently have families coming to Redmond from Jefferson County, Metolius, Culver, Sisters and Prineville to be part of the program,” said Peden.  “We also have wait lists in areas because our families are telling their friends and family members about the program. We’re so excited to have this support that will prepare Latinx Spanish-speaking children to thrive in Kindergarten while also assisting Latino parents and giving them tools to be their children’s’ first teachers and advocates.

Juntos Aprendemos is held weekly at area elementary schools, often where a child will attend kindergarten. Children gain a first school experience in a nurturing environment that embraces their parents, their culture, and their first language.