Llano Grande Center History and Mission
The Llano Grande Center and its philosophy were developed and nurtured by local people with a particular appreciation for local history and wisdom. With local assets as the context, the Center’s vision is to inspire a youth culture that aspires to attend college and engage in community change.
The work of Llano Grande began informally in the early 1990s through classroom and extra-curricular activities intended to show Edcouch-Elsa High School students that not only was college possible for them, but that it was also necessary and that many of them were talented enough to compete for admission at the most prestigious universities. This initial work included trips to colleges on the East Coast, meetings with admissions officers, and challenges to teachers, students and parents to raise their own expectations.
The work progressed in 1997 with the formalization of the Llano Grande Center as a program of Edcouch-Elsa Independent School District (EEISD). The cornerstone of the Center’s college preparation became to promote critical thinking and youth leadership through community-based projects. Students were transformed into community-minded leaders who were ready for the social, political, and academic rigors of higher education.
In partnership with EEISD, the Center began collecting and archiving oral histories from community members. As elders were invited into classrooms to share their life histories, students and teachers learned about the rich, untold history of the community. Students acquired a greater appreciation of:
- local values
- family loyalties
- the personal initiative involved in emigration to an alien culture
- the dignity and spiritual satisfaction of labor
- the sociopolitical context of their hometowns
- and previous change efforts.
Mentored by Llano Grande’s staff, students gained a sense of pride and ownership that provided the stimulus to revitalize community life, as students began to recognize the bonds between older generations and their own.
The Center’s programs proceeded from the belief that the best classroom is the one with no walls; the community became the most important educational laboratory. Consequently, an abundance of assets was discovered. As the community became viewed as the place for learning, relationships between teachers and administrators gave way to a more democratic educational process in which students and the community members participated actively in their own development. The Center found that through the use of more participatory and inclusive methods such as asset mapping, project planning, policymaking, documentation and evaluation, students became more engaged, and developed a better understanding of the significance of civic participation. This prepared them to lead more productive, fulfilling lives and resulted in a stronger community. The relationship between educational opportunities and community development has become central in our work. The Center has trained students, educators, and community development agents locally, nationally, and internationally on how to find, tell and use their story to achieve community change.