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Education outreach: Sonia Mendoza

Sonia Mendoza did not let a global pandemic or national shutdown stop her from helping kids in the community get the educational resources they need.

When everything was against her, Mendoza didn’t give up, but instead worked twice as hard to help her community.

Mendoza works part time at the nonprofit La Luz Center as well as for the nonprofit Kid Scoop News. Between her work for La Luz’s AVANCE, an early childhood education program for Sonoma Valley children under 3, and Kid Scoop News, which distributes a free kids’ newspaper to Sonoma schools, it is clear that Mendoza has a passion for education.

“Every kid has potential but we just try to find it and give them the resources so they can realize their own potential,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza was a lawyer in Mexico before immigrating to the United States and she and her family have been a part of the Sonoma community since 2006. She has always been eager to help her neighbors, but it wasn’t until 2019 that Mendoza started working for La Luz Center and participated in its Latino Leadership program. Through that seven-month program, Mendoza learned about what she can do to help her community - and she hasn’t slowed down since.

Sonia Mendoza of La Luz Center on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)
Sonia Mendoza of La Luz Center on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Photo by Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune)

Mendoza’s mentor in the program was Vicki Whiting, the founder and publisher of Kid Scoop News, where Mendoza now works part time.

“Certainly a lot of people have needed help this past year so that’s why she is such a hero to me. Even in the face of a pandemic, having three children of her own, she didn’t let anything stop her [from helping],” Whiting said of Mendoza. “She is so modest...the one that quietly does so much good and does not look for any outward recognition; her rewards come from seeing that she is making a difference.”

Kid Scoop News’s goal is to supply kids reading material that is fun and educational. Whiting believes a prominent factor for a lot of kids’ struggles in school is their lack of access to resources. Because of this, she started the newspaper to not only help kids practice reading, but also include a parent guide insert to help them assist their child’s learning. Thanks to Mendoza (and the help of her son), the pamphlet is translated and available in English and Spanish.

“The first and most important teacher of the kids is you as a parent,” Mendoza said. “Books are hard for kids to read ‒ they don’t engage ‒ but the newspaper is a different feeling and the kids connect to the newspaper right away.”

Of course, this last year brought challenges to the newspaper’s distribution, which has traditionally been done through schools. Mendoza took this challenge head-on to make sure no one who wanted the paper was missing out.

“Sonia kept trying to find out ‘where do we find people?’ There isn’t one solution; you have to be available through all the different resources... so she just was everywhere: food drives, mask distribution, even Facebook Live,” Whiting said.

Mendoza worked both in-person and online, connecting with parents and children through the El Verano Elementary School Family Resource Center, Facebook Live events for parents, and adapting to working through Zoom for her AVANCE families.

“We are trying to do something to encourage reading because we know that is going to be a big problem; they are virtual learning, and it’s not the same. If we encourage the kids to read more, then maybe there won’t be a huge academic gap,” Mendoza said. “If someone told me before that I was going to deliver the program through Zoom I would say no, not possible. However, the parents in Sonoma are really engaged with their kids’ learning, really involved.”

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