Phoenix Day

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Founded in 1915, Phoenix Day has grown into one of Arizona’s most innovative and progressive child learning centers-providing low-cost child care and health services for working families and 3,500 mostly Hispanic children. Yvette Toledo Katsenes, Executive Director of Phoenix Day, joins José Cárdenas to discuss her work and the organization’s 90th anniversary.

>>José Cárdenas:
Good evening, I'm José Cárdenas. Welcome to "Horizonte."

>>>José Cárdenas:
There's a new Latino group with a mission to unite Latino leaders and effect change. Plus, one of Arizona's most innovative and progressive child learning centers in the Hispanic community celebrates a special milestone this year. All next on "Horizonte."

>>José Cárdenas:
Arizona Latino research enterprise or "ALRE" is a new organization in the valley focused on issues in the Latino community. Joining us tonight to tell us more about the group and its mission is Lisa Urias, one of the founding members of ALRE. Lisa, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Where did the idea come from?

>> Lisa Urias:
Originally it started with Mario Diaz. They got together and were just talking about the need to form a group within the valley to really effect change within the Latino community, to address issues, talk about them and address change. Subsequently, they pulled a group of people together and asked us if we would like to participate.

>>José Cárdenas:
And the group has been described as a group of Latino professionals, you have Mario Diaz and associates, a consulting firm, political consulting firm who was with Governor Napolitano. You've got a partner at the prestigious law firm of Fennemore Craig. You are a principal of multicultural advertising. Tell us about the rest of the group and what kinds of backgrounds they represent.

>> Lisa Urias:
Sure. Well, some of them include people like Armando Contrerez, the director of an interfaith network for a group of interfaith people in the valley. We've got people like Art Macias who is the State director of weights and means at the State of Arizona. Wendy Villa, who works with Mario, and several others who are just professionals in their fields in a variety of areas, government, private business and education.

>>José Cárdenas:
What is the mission of the group?

>> Lisa Urias:
Really, the mission is to dialogue and effect change. What we'd like to do is bring people in to talk about what it is to -- what it means to be Latino within their role, their lives, and then from there, go into how do we effect change within the Latino community at every level, whether it's political, education, economic development, et cetera.

>>José Cárdenas:
In fact what it means to be Latino was the subject of the lunch at the inaugural speech. Before we get to that, why this group and why now. There have been other groups that come along. They are existing groups. What was the felt need for this group?

>> Lisa Urias:
I think primarily to try to work with the existing groups, and to unify as much as we can together as an organization. We like to be able to start working together more. We'd like to be able to really build some excitement about Latinos who are in existing areas of profession, and how they can gather together to use their influence to make a difference in the community. We are definitely a group that is supplemental to a lot of the other groups and want to work with them.

>>José Cárdenas:
You talked about uniting groups. The suggestion in some of the coverage is that there's a division, a generation division, perhaps a division between recent immigrants and people born in this country, that this group may be trying to bridge that divide. Is that your assessment as well?

>> Lisa Urias:
Well, I'm not sure how much of a division there is within our community. What I do know is that when -- if someone is a fully assimilated Latino, for example, versus a new immigrant, we are all affected by how we're treated. If the immigrant population is attacked, for example, and then all of us are affected, including our children, when they are in schools and the things that happen. So there definitely is an interest in finding ways to bring benefit to everyone. Generationally, I'm not sure whether -- there's definitely not a division within our organization because we have many members of all ages already.

>>José Cárdenas:
Only the founders and I overlooked Bettina Nova, and she has been active and involved.

>> Lisa Urias:
Uh-huh.

>>José Cárdenas:
They are all relatively young.

>> Lisa Urias:
Right.

>>José Cárdenass:
You don't see people like Alfredo Gutierrez and Danny Ortega and Mary Rose Wilcox, all of whom are supportive, but why is that?

>> Lisa Urias:
They are definitely members of the group. We have several who're -- who are maybe a generation ahead of the founding members of the group, and we are looking to them for support and counsel. They are involved in a lot of things and we are hoping to make all of them members. It's a new group. We've been very energized about the ideas and have definitely been in conversation with all of those people about what we're trying to do.

>>José Cárdenas:
And one of the things you all are trying to do is this monthly lunch in speakers. What is the idea behind that?

>> Lisa Urias:
Primarily it's a dialogue. So often we go through life, not really listening to the experiences of other people, and as Latinos, I think it's really important for us to listen to the experiences of people who have had a lot of influence or who have made strides in their particular areas, and who can tell us what those are. The first series that we started with was with councilmember Varigosa, who spoke to us about what it is to work within that community. What his experience has been going from being one of the fewest minority populations to now the largest population in Los Angeles, and it was very interesting to listen to his perspective.

>>José Cárdenas:
And you really kicked off the lecture series with some star power. He's a candidate for the mayor of the city of Los Angeles. He would be the first Latino mayor in probably what did he say 140 years?

>> Lisa Urias:
139 years, yes

>>José Cárdenas:
And former state legislator considered by some to be the most influential Hispanic politician in the state. How did you get him to be your kickoff speaker?

>> Lisa Urias:
Well, Mario has a lot of influence with many politicos throughout the nation, in particular la Latinos. He and Mario have had a long-standing relationship. He is very interested in what's happening in Arizona. Los Angeles is a completely different world, sort of in and of itself, but he sees Arizona as a place that has a lot of opportunity. So councilmember Varigosa is committed to doing what he can to provide us with insight and information so that we can do what we can as Latinos to make a positive impact.

>>José Cárdenas:
There are certainly differences between Arizona and California, yet he seemed to focus on many of the same challenges facing Hispanics in two states. He talked about proposition 187 a number of years ago in California.

>> Lisa Urias:
Right.

>>José Cárdenas:
He made oblique references to Prop 200 here. Are those some of the kinds of issues that this group will be dealing with?

>> Lisa Urias:
Absolutely.

>>José Cárdenas:
In what way?

>> Lisa Urias:
Well, I think what we have seen over the last few years in Arizona is that there is a tremendous need for us to gather together, discuss these issues, and disperse the information to the general populace about what we think these types of propositions, for example, do to our community as a whole, to really have an influence and make a difference so that we can effect change in a more progressive way and not necessarily in a way that's negatively impacting our community.

>>José Cárdenas:
You talked earlier about bridging the divide and getting -- informing people and getting groups together, and yet a fairly significant number of Hispanics supported Prop 200. Do you think the outcome would have been different in that regard if ARLE had been active and involved at that time?

>> Lisa Urias:
I hope it would have been different. I think if we could have as a group pulled together other groups within Arizona, Latino groups and others, and really talked about what is the impact that this is going to have in our communities, get that sort of information out and education out in a more concrete way, I think it may have made a difference. I hope it would have made a difference. That's what we're hoping to do in the future.

>>José Cárdenas:
The lecture series is entitled [speaks Spanish] tell us how it came to be called that.

>> Lisa Urias:
As you mentioned earlier, many of the founding members are younger boomers or again Gen Xers. One of the things that we really want to do is honor those who have gone before us. All of us come from families and from backgrounds where our parents and grandparents have done many, many things, and Rachel Rivera was one of those people. She was an educator, a poet, and just a tremendous influence in her world, and we want to be able to honor the people who have done such good things in our community and to show them as examples to our children as well.

>>José Cárdenas:
And a tremendous influence on her son.

>> Lisa Urias:
Absolutely.

>>José Cárdenas:
In the upcoming lecture series, I know you've got four or five planned, what are the topics that will be covered there?

>> Lisa Urias:
We'll cover topics from the arts, the next one is going to be focused on sports, a Latino who is actually a race car driver, who is a very interesting and fascinating figure. The following will be a talk about religion. We're interested in Latinos and religion, that would be an interfaith panel, so we'll look at Latinos in every area of religion, not just Catholic that's maybe been more traditional, but what about a Latino who is within the Buddhist world, within the Protestant world or Hindu world, et cetera. We'll put a panel together to discuss that. We're interested in doing Latinos in the arts. We really want to bring in good talent there and just talk about the existing things going on for Latinos in the arts and many, many other subjects we would like to discuss.

>>José Cárdenas:
There was some mention of polls or polling that is going to be done by the group. Tell us about that.

>> Lisa Urias:
Some of the things we would like to do is gather public opinion. As you mentioned earlier in Prop 200, I think it would be great to be able to target some of the Latinos and other markets out there and find out what they are thinking, what are their opinions, what are they looking at, so that we can then respond in kind and get a message out that's relevant to people and how they are thinking. So, we're looking at a lot of different potential venues to work through for making sure that we're effective as an organization.

>>José Cárdenas:
There was a discussion of a Latino town hall. When would that be and what would be its scope?

>> Lisa Urias:
We are definitely doing a town hall in October. We're really excited about APS working with us on that. We want to sit down as we go through the lecture series and start identifying what do we think some of the more pertinent issues that we need to address, and within that, pull people together, people like you, people like others within our community to talk about how do we need to effect change within the Latino community? What are some of the action items and action plans that we need to develop.

>>José Cárdenas:
What kind of response has ALRE received from other more established groups?

>> Lisa Urias:
Well, I think it's been positive. I haven't heard anything -- anybody getting upset with us or being concerned about us stepping on territory or anything like that. I don't think that anybody feels that that is the intent of the organization. If you know the people within the organization, their intend is truly to -- their intent is to be a positive influence within the community, to really look and listen to what's happening within the community, and just make a difference and work together with all of the groups that are out there.

>>José Cárdenas :
Lisa Urias, thank you for joining us. Best of luck in this new endeavor.

>> Lisa Urias:
Thank you so much, Jose.

>>José Cárdenas:
Phoenix Day is Arizona's oldest early education and childcare center. More than 80% of the children attending Phoenix Day are Hispanic. This year marks the child care center's 90th anniversary. Let's take a look at what makes Phoenix Day special and unique.

>> Reporter:
High quality childcare, healthy child development, every family deserves the very best. But for those who can barely afford to put a meal on their table, oftentimes, it is out of reach. Since 1915, the oldest operating child development center in Arizona has been a beacon of light and a promise for a better future. Phoenix Day serves a community struggling mightily to overcome inner city challenges. 75% of our families are at or below the poverty level. That is an annual income of only $18,400 for a family of four. We provide them with peace of mind as they struggle to improve their lives.

>> The people that Phoenix day serves, this working poor population, are really honest, hard working, committed individuals that are trying to make a better life. They are moving from welfare to self-sufficiency, and our role is to support them in that.

>> Reporter:
Financial support provides many of these families with the resources they need, giving them their first chance to break a chain of poverty that has been with them for generations.

>> Marisela:
My dad was an alcoholic. He was an abusive father. My mom was on welfare. The gangs started going and I saw a lot of my friends getting shot. The reason I'm trying to stay off welfare, because I mean, it gets me nowhere. It just puts me in a lower position, and I want to show my kids that I can do it on my own.

>> Reporter:
Marisela's youngest daughter is part of our Phoenix day family. While she is here, her mom is working on her career.

>> Marisela:
I'm trying to work as hard as I can so I can raise money for my four children to go to college. I really want them all to go to college. If I have to get two jobs, I will get two jobs.

>> Reporter:
Jennifer was able to get her family out of a shelter after putting 1-year-old Leah and 5-year-old Jacob into Phoenix Day.

>> Jennifer:
With all of the jobs that I've had, I've always had a problem with daycare, second shift and the weekends and it was very hard for me.

>> Reporter:
With her children in subsidized daycare, she went back to school and became a dental assistant. Most importantly, she was able to move into an apartment.

>> Jennifer:
Having my own place has made a big difference. I'm happier and my kids are, too.

>>José Cárdenas:
Joining us tonight is Phoenix Day's executive director, Yvette Katenes. Thank you for joining us.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Thank you for having me.

>>José Cárdenas:
I would imagine that it happens very frequently, they think of Phoenix country day school in Paradise Valley.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Yes.

>>José Cárdenas:
Where is Phoenix Day located?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Unfortunately, they are nothing alike. Phoenix Day is located in south Phoenix, just south of downtown, about six blocks west of America West Arena in the heart of really one of the enterprise zones that Phoenix has.

>>José Cárdenas:
What's the significance of it being in an enterprise zone.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
It's not a great significance. It is a high crime area with a high single mother, single head of household -- unfortunately it means it's a problematic area and has received that federal designation.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tell us more about some of the specifics of the community that it serves.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
The community we serve, we serve 81% Hispanic families in Phoenix.

>>José Cárdenas:
The kids are 81% of your population is Hispanic?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Correct, yeah, 81%, about 90% of our staff is Hispanic as well. And most of them are the working poor. About 80-90% live at or below the federal poverty line, and these are truly the working poor. These are the folks that live in the south Phoenix area that are trying to make a living, that need a great, safe place to have their children come on a regular basis, so that they are well taken care of and in a good early education setting while they are working and trying to get on their feet.

>>José Cárdenas:
Some of these kids are children of immigrants?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
I would say most of them are children of immigrants, yes.

>>José Cárdenas:
You are the daughter of immigrants. Your parents were from Cuba, as I understand it

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Correct.

>>José Cárdenas:
Does that make any difference? Does that enhance your ability to do the job that you do?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Yeah, it's funny that you ask that, because that actually came up when I was interviewing for this position. I am the daughter of Cuban immigrants. I very much can understand the need to have a safe place to go to. I understand the issues that some of these families are grappling with of assimilating into the community, of making sure that their children are afforded the very best, and you know, it should be no different. It should be the same as you mentioned in Paradise Valley of having a great child care center. It should be no different for a Hispanic immigrant than it should be for anyone else. I very much related to that.

>>José Cárdenas:
Presumably one significant difference between that institution and yours is funding. Tell us about your funding sources.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Yeah, that is a huge difference. Phoenix Day has a $1.8 million a year budget to run our programs. Child care centers are terribly expensive to run. One of our philosophies is that we want it to be the best, meaning we have a great staff, a large staff, and that tends to indicate quality in an early education program, and so our funding comes from United Way, which are very generous, providing us with over a quarter of our budget. We're reimbursed by the State through the DES program that reimburses families that qualify for child care fees, from the federal government, for federal food program that we provide our children, but about $600,000 a year is pure fund raising. It comes from the community, through grants, through special events and through corporate and individual donations. So in many ways it's our biggest challenge.

>>José Cárdenas:
And given the discussions in the legislature about the budget and deficits, depending upon whose point of view you are listening to, does that present any specific challenge for Phoenix Day?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
It does. As I mentioned earlier, a number of our families qualify for DES reimbursement, meaning it fluctuates throughout the year, but let's say about 80% on an average basis, receive DES reimbursement for their child care fees. So for an infant room, for example, they pay maybe $2 a day. Very little. What does affect us is right now, for example, DES has a wait list, so about 2000 children that would normally qualify to get that reimbursement can't qualify for it or are placed on a wait list. So that affects our new families that are coming in. They are not able to get that reimbursement, and so we, then, have to work with them to see if there is any alternative means to have them pay for child care.

>>José Cárdenas:
Do you have to dip into other resources to serve those people?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Yes, we have scholarship funds that are set up for us, the Rosie O'Donnell foundation has a scholarship fund at Phoenix Day, so we find other means to help them.

>>José Cárdenas:
As we mentioned in the introduction, this is Phoenix day's 90th anniversary. Tell us about the history of the founding of Phoenix day and then I want to talk about some significant milestones.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Well, it's amazing. 90 years, the state is what, 92 years old or so? We actually were founded in 1915 to provide child care for World War I wives that were entering the work force. We started in the basement of a church, and in that time have grown and changed to be really one of the most innovative child care centers in the state. I can tell but some of our firsts. We were the firsts racially integrated child care center.

>>José Cárdenas:
When would that have been?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
In the 1930s. Very unusual at the time. We were the role model and testbed for Sesame Street.

>>José Cárdenas:
Tell us about that.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
This is amazing. Joan Kuney who is the creator of "Sesame Street," went to north high in Phoenix and was looking for a child care center that had a very ethnically diverse grouping of children, and being one of the first racially integrated and having a high Hispanic population at the time, she chose Phoenix Day to test the "Sesame Street" curriculum. So a lot of -- when you watch "Sesame Street" you see things in Spanish and English. You see children of all ethnic backgrounds, and really, a lot of that is still the case today at Phoenix Day. It's just a wonderful milestone that most people don't know about. In the '80s, we fully implemented a bilingual curriculum, so classes are taught in English and Spanish. Signs are in English and Spanish, so we tend to have kids coming out of Phoenix Day that are ready for kindergarten learning both languages, and then we also recognize that we needed to -- serving the working poor, that we needed additional services, so we have a bilingual case manager, and a healthcare outreach program that we started in the '90s. And the idea being that you come to a child care center every day. So if you need some of these services and you are the working poor, you don't have time to go somewhere else to have your child checked or have a healthcare referral. So we help with that.

>>José Cárdenas:
With so many milestones, accomplishments and such a fascinating background, why is it that more people don't know more about Phoenix Day?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
I wish I knew the answer to that question. This being our 90th anniversary, we think it's a great opportunity and time to raise the visibility of such an incredible school serving the Hispanic community, serving Phoenix in general. For some reason it's just been this well kept secret. It's a beautiful facility. It's a beautiful place, as you saw from that video, and we want more people to know about it.

>>José Cárdenas:
Now, over time, over those 90 years, the neighborhood around Phoenix day has changed significantly. Talk about the change in the demographics.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
It really has. When we moved into the neighborhood, which was in the '50s, it was a middle class working neighborhood. It was just, you know, nice little neighborhood. Over that time, there has -- it has changed quite a bit. There is unfortunately, a great deal of crime in the area, a great deal of drug use in the area, and I think what adds to the specialness of Phoenix Day is that it's maintained sort of as a resource in that area this whole time. It hasn't changed that much. In fact, it's just improved the neighborhood and become a resource for the community.

>>José Cárdenas:
And you are embarking on a captains tall campaign to expand the scope of services. Tell us about that.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Yeah, we are. We would like to continue growing. You were asking about the neighborhood and how we serve. For example, we do far more than just early education. We have, for example, our healthcare outreach into the community. And we just a few months ago held a health fair. We invited the entire community to come out. We partnered with a bunch of agencys like Baptist hospital and other organizations. We had free cholesterol screenings, free health checks, free blood pressure screenings, and we found, you know, some high cases and did some referrals because of that. So we're continuing to recognize that, you know, these wonderful nonprofit resources don't usually exist in the heart of some of these neighborhoods that need it the most.

>>José Cárdenas:
What is Phoenix day's involvements in the Governor's plans?

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
I've sat on her health implementation taskforce, which is one of the components of it, and we fully have embraced her school readiness plan, so we have implemented a lot of the recommendations in it. And it's an interesting exercise because, for example, people think of children being ready to learn, that they can read and write, and those are two huge components, but another big component is being healthy. If a child can't hear very well, then they can't develop their literacy skills and their speech, subsequently leading to reading and writing and being ready. We've fully embraced her recommendations which includes checking on the health of the kids in the school.

>>José Cárdenas:
We're going to have to end it there Andrea. I told you I would call you Andrea, it's Yvette, but thank you for joining us and best of luck at Phoenix day.

>> Yvette Toledo Katsenes:
Thank you.

>>José Cárdenas:
You can go to our web site at www.azpbs.org and click on the "Horizonte" link. Thank you for watching

Yvette Katenes: Executive Director, Phoenix Day;

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