A dozen women at the Mar Vista Family Center in Del Rey graduated Monday from a special UCLA program that certifies teachers for preschool and daycare programs.
It was the largest graduating class in the program's history, which started in 1984 when the UCLA Extension program began offering teaching classes at the center.
More than 100 community members have received Early Childhood Education Certificates through the program, said Lucia Diaz, chief executive officer of the Mar Vista Family Center. The nonprofit center provides poor families with early childhood education programs and other services for older students and parents.
Diaz introduced the dozen students during a graduating ceremony at the center in which they received bouqets of yellow roses and their teaching certificates before an audience of about 80 people.
“You helped us to make our wishes come true," said program graduate Camelia Benitez. "It took teamwork, and I thank you so much for the support.”
The women started their educational journey by joining the center's Preschool Parent Participation Program, sponsored by the Angell Foundation.
“It allows our parents to gain knowledge and experience in the classroom to become effective teachers,” Diaz said.
The Tikkun Olam Women's Foundation also has supported the teacher certificate program between UCLA Extension and the Mar Vista Family Center.
“We thought that it is a wonderful idea to train people to continue the wonderful work that we do with our children [at the center]," said Gene Stein of the Tikkun Olam Foundation, who was joined by his wife, Mindy, in congratulating the women.
The program has helped graduates find work in the early childhood education field, Diaz said.
For some, it was the first time anyone in their family had received any type of college education.
"My daughters are all planning on going to college,” graduate Angelica Frausto proudly said. She said she is going to encourage her son and daughters, by her example, to aim for successful lives through higher education.
The graduates were: Benitez, Frausto, Julia-Ana Cesario, Cecilia Chico, Maria Darling, Veronica Gonzalez, Karla Martinez, Obdulia Navarro, Iselia Quinones, Ana Luz Ramirez, Griselda Urbina and Carmelita Zurita. The certificates were presented by UCLA Extension program instructor Monica Hilario.