Amanda Coggeshall, a volunteer at El Centro Latino, says she knows the challenges Latino students face adjusting to life in Columbia.
“These kids have trouble: they move here and are not used to a Midwest town,” Coggeshall said. “We want to create a safe place where students can discuss what happens to them because they are Latino in a mostly white school.”
El Centro Latino de Salud, Educacion y Cultura is one of 12 groups requesting money from the Human Rights Enhancement Program this year. The money would fund ABC, Teaching Human Rights, a program designed by the United Nations to help teachers foster awareness and knowledge of human rights. The program would be added to after-school and team-tutoring programs already held at the center.
“We heard about the grant, and we knew it was right up our alley because we work with Hispanics new to this culture,” said Mary Knauer, education coordinator at the center.
An Interest in Money
The Columbia Human Rights Commission received requests totaling $10,560, the highest amount since the program began in 1995. The requested amount is more than twice the $5,100 available for grants this year. The commission will decide which groups to fund on Nov. 5.
“There’s certainly an increased interest in the funding,” said Phil Steinhaus, manager of the Office of Community Services. “It shows the growth in the program.”
Steinhaus attributes the growth to additional organizations in town and more people learning about the program. The Office of Community Services distributed fliers, ran advertisements and sent newsletters to spread the word about the program.
The quality of proposals and programs has increased over the years, said Steinhaus, who tries to attend most of the funded programs.
To choose which programs to fund, the Human Rights Commission will review the proposals and hold hearings with representatives from different groups. The commission can choose to grant all or part of an organization’s request, or give it no money at all. Groups can appeal on Nov. 19, the date funding decisions are finalized.
Steinhaus said a program receives funding based on how closely it addresses human rights education and outreach. The commission also looks at the overall cost, how many people a program will reach and the organization of the sponsoring group.
Many of the proposed programs this year address the Latino community, and Steinhaus said this is a growing trend.
“The commission will take a very interested look in programs that address our growing Hispanic population,” Steinhaus said.