Young Mothers Get A Helping Hand

Bank and service club work together to benefit infants and toddlers.

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

A donation of thousands of diapers delivered to the Ramona Infant Center, located on the campus of Ramona Opportunity High School in East Los Angeles, was a sight for sore eyes  to some young mothers on Monday.

Eighteen-year-old Yeimy Gomez’s infant son stays at the infant center while she attends classes. On Monday she was one of several excited young mothers who received a jumbo-size box of disposable diapers, a donation that came just in the nick-of-time.

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“I was worried [I’d run out], there’s six days left in the month…” Gomez said, noting that money for diapers is in short supply. To make do, she’s been squeezing her son into a size five diaper when he really needs a size six.

Pan American Bank and the East Los Angeles Rotary Club donated the diapers, according to Jesse Torres, the bank’s CEO and president-elect of the Rotary.
“If anyone has a hard time buying diapers, it’s high schoolers,” Torres said.

About 3,000 diapers were delivered to the school on Monday. EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo

Last year the Rotary Club and Pan American Bank teamed up to collect diapers for an orphanage in Mexico, Torres said. The campaign was highly successful and the diapers are still coming in, he told EGP.

“I think it’s a blessing,” said Blanca Morales, 19, mother of one-year-old Nathaly Barrales.

“It’s nice. It’s a good thing, we all need diapers,” said Alexandria Piriyakul, 20, whose 18-month-old child also attends the infant center.

Not all the girls at Ramona are mothers, but for those who are, the infant center allows them to finish their high school education.

“[But] some [potential students] can’t even come because they don’t have childcare,” laments Lead Teacher Lisa Mayorga, explaining that there is a waiting list for the center that currently cares for 11 children.

The diaper donation takes some of the burden off the young mom’s shoulders, Mayorga said. “It’s definitely a lot of help.”

Alice Lopez has worked at the center for almost three decades and says the infant center could use more donations. She said years ago the LAUSD facility would regularly receive donations of blankets and shoes for the babies.

But that has changed.

LAUSD provides the center with baby formula, milk and baby food, Maria Beechwood, an employee at the center said.

Ramona Opportunity’s infant center, like other early childhood education centers, was recently threatened with closure as part of the cuts being considered by the school district, which is struggling to balance its budget with less revenue.

But while it appears the infant center is safe for now, several permanent staff members have been pink slipped, a center employee who wished to remain anonymous told EGP.

The new pink slips are in addition to two employees laid off last year, she added.

Beechwood said the diaper donation shows the young women, who are used to being judged, that people care about them.

Ramona students are taking on the role of being responsible mothers, she said. Some of them, their babies in tow, have to take as many as three buses, in the rain and in the heat, to get to school, she said.

On Monday, Torres told the young mothers that he admires their determination to get an education, and shared that his sister was a young mother who struggled to get ahead.

He also told the young women that it’s never too early to start planning for a child’s future, and told them about Pan American Bank’s free child savings accounts.

Seventeen-year-old Karina Rojas is one of four students at the all-girls school who is participating in Pan American Bank’s Youth Financial Literacy Ambassadors program. The former Roosevelt student has a one-year-old son at the infant center.

She told EGP that the ambassador program has opened her eyes.

It was like a  “wow” moment when I learned about all the different ways money can be invested, Rojas said. I had never even heard of certificates of deposit (CD) accounts before, she said.

The financial literacy program is also currently at Esteban Torres and Garfield High Schools, according to Hector Perez-Pacheco of Pan American Bank.
After completing their training, other Youth Financial Literacy Ambassadors have expressed empowerment and confidence to EGP from knowing how to manage their finances.

But today, as Rojas and her classmates struggle to balance high school and motherhood, it’s a donation of diapers that is making life just a little easier.

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March 29, 2012  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


One Response to “Young Mothers Get A Helping Hand”

  1. Jesse Torres on March 29th, 2012 10:10 pm


    Thank you so much for this story. These students will be tremendous leaders once they graduate and move on to college. Despite the adversity they remain committed to their studies in an effort to provide a good life for themselves and their child. If they were to give up on school and focus solely on their child no one would question them. But they have chosen to go above and beyond and to set an example for their sons and daughters. Let’s all give them a hand somehow.

    Thanks again.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA

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