Building a Community of Hope
Sofia Manzo & Family
Like many residents in her Echo Park neighborhood, Sofia Manzo saw a need for outlets to keep teens like her on a positive path and focused on the future. Community is built from the ground up; it’s also supported and strengthened by daily interaction. For communities like Sofia’s, that foundation is sometimes as simple as having a door to walk through, a safe haven where someone can point you toward the help you need—whatever it might be.
Her family had already taken part in a reading program at Rosemont Elementary School, co-sponsored by CII. Her mother traditionally preferred staying close to home, but made a special effort to reach out for help for one of her sons. When CII’s Otis Booth Campus opened, they were one of the first families through the threshold.
While Sofia focused on accruing community service hours for high school, her siblings found outlets that hadn’t been available to them before. They eagerly signed up for classes—ceramics, media arts and sports. Sofia plugged into teen-focused programs and began working with a group to develop new opportunities for youth. “We came up with cooking and music classes, and staged events,” activities that would help supplement the dearth of opportunities locally. Most unexpectedly, though, was the community CII created for Sofia’s mother. Her “Women’s Circle” group gives her an outlet for supportive friendships and gets her out more for yoga, jogging and gardening.
Though she’s since moved on to college, Sofia hasn’t parted ways with CII. She balances her studies with a part-time job as a CII receptionist, and is a mentor for CII’s Youth Council, developing programs for first-generation college students.
“Before CII opened, we would stay home a lot, and now we have access to so many activities. CII made a big difference for my family.”
CII has been such a great benefit to the community. It’s become a hub for people in this area. There was simply nothing like this before.Sofia Manzo