Through the vision and hard work of IMPACT Network Builders Carmen Hernandez, Valerie Salazar, and Danny Centeno, IMPACT has launched the Community Trade Academy in Wheaton. The goals of the academy are to provide immigrant adults in Wheaton with ways to stay engaged in learning, meet and build relationships with others in their community, and acquire skills that can be used to gain employment and/or start small businesses.
After years of deep listening in communities, Network Builders are attuned to the interests of residents and know how to build programming around those interests. As such, the Community Trade Academy offers an entrepreneur jumpstart class that teaches the much-requested basics of successfully launching a small business. Additionally, residents can take classes in jewelry making, piñata making, sewing, and cooking for the food service industry—all skills community members have expressed interest in learning.
Whenever possible, classes are taught by community members like Eunice Morales and Edelsa Barrios who are both sewing class instructors. Recruiting skilled community members to teach classes helps to ensure that Community Trade Academy courses are culturally responsive. It also helps to strengthen community ties and highlight existing community gifts and talents.
Currently, courses are taught at Hughes United Methodist Church, community members’ homes, and the Wheaton Community Recreation Center. On Friday, May 19, the Community Trade Academy held its first graduation ceremony. More than 60 community members graduated from the variety of classes offered with several students participating in and completing multiple classes across the academy.
So far, we’ve watched students launch small businesses making jewelry and piñatas and we’ve seen students gain employment in the food industry as line and prep cooks as well as one kitchen manager. We’re excited to see what the future of the Community Trade Academy holds. We hope to offer more and different courses as demand is ever-increasing. We would also like to expand the academy concept to other areas of Montgomery County—of course, tailoring it to fit the unique interests of each community. Stay tuned to this space for updates!