Alianza Coachella Valley held a graduation celebration for over 40 young people and adults who completed a training series on restorative justice that covered topics like conflict resolution and trauma sensitivity.

Alianza Coachella Valley adheres to a few empowering ideologies but one of them certainly piques interest: the belief that “a thriving Eastern Coachella Valley benefits the whole valley.”

As the only alliance in the Valley that unites community members, nonprofits, and government to lead efforts toward a flourishing region, Alianza’s work is ever-expanding. That it centers around leadership development is noteworthy but there’s also a deep commitment to raising awareness around the idea that healthy and economically successful communities can exist only when the population is represented in all decisions impacting daily lives.

To that end, making people active players in the processes shaping policies and public funding priorities is key.

“The organization focuses on system and policy change in the areas of education, equity, environmental justice, work and civic engagement so that our communities can prosper,” says Patricia S. Carrillo, Alianza’s Director of Development and External Relations. “We really strive to uplift the entire community.”

One focus of the organization is on the city of Coachella and the unincorporated communities of Mecca, Oasis, Thermal, and North Shore nearby the Salton Sea. Carrillo points out that these communities are predominantly Latino whose dynamic culture and history can be eclipsed by economic disadvantages. Eastern communities also face lack of investment in the areas of housing and housing infrastructure, such as water and wastewater, infrastructure—roads, sidewalks, lighting, parks—and, perhaps most vital, healthcare.

Alianza’s community support creates opportunities to:

  • establish positive learning environment into schools
  • offer parks, paved roads, and public transportation to marginalized neighborhoods
  • improve community representation on the region’s water district board
  • connect neighbors to affordable health services
  • plan new culturally inclusive community festivals

Recently Alianza received a grant from the Inland Empire Community Foundation through the 150 Circle of Giving Fund. Carrillo sees this as a unique opportunity to implement significant goals, such as fueling the Community Justice Campaign, which establishes educational equity in the Valley.

Karina Andalon receives a certificate and an appreciation gift for completing a series of trainings about restorative justice organized by Alianza Coachella Valley.

Since 2014, the campaign, previously known as their Schools to Action Team, has executed restorative practices and equitable funding within the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD)—equitable and transparent budget processes, for instance. “We’ve seen many ‘wins’ since the campaign began and we’re thankful for additional funding,” Carrillo says.

One of the more recent achievements revolves around local students advocating for wellness centers.

“Through student advocacy work, in conjunction with many partners, we were able to attain something unique,” Carrillo says, noting that the CVUSD board approved wellness centers for both middle schools and high schools. “They’re currently in the implementation phase of staffing the centers. We realized, especially during the pandemic, that as needs continue to be uplifted, whether it be mental health support needs or bringing in additional counselors, we’ll be able to implement these restorative practices in these spaces.”

Another noteworthy recipient of recent funding is the Educational Equity Task Force Team. The inclusive team consists of 11 youth, a mix of Coachella Valley high school and college students.

“They are our key leaders and they’ll receive training in the full scope of work we do,” Carrillo shares. “Funding is important. It allows us to build a capacity of youth so that they have a seat at the table and can be the change they want to see.

Prior to her role as Director of Development and External Relations, Carrillo was the project manager for the Community Justice Campaign. She feels that without Alianza, there would be a significant void, particularly in youth-related services

“Youth are not only the future of our community, they’re also the present,” she says. “And they’re big change agents for the region. We want to uplift our youth and make sure they know they are major players and in any decisions made. It’s so important to include them at the table in these spaces.”

For more information on Alianza Coachella Valley, visit alianzacv.org.

This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun, May 2022.

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