Best Start Palmdale had a special acknowledgement when Palmdale Mayor James C. Ledford attended its monthly partnership meeting recently and spoke about how his team is looking forward to helping the community. Accompanied by Palmdale’s Communications Manager John Mlynar, they were excited to meet the Palmdale residents.
“It was great. We loved coming out and meeting everybody,” said Mlynar. “The mayor was excited to be there.”
Mlynar spoke about all the cultural opportunities of which they want residents to be aware, as well as providing food, clothing and housing vouchers.
“We just want all our residents to know what's available and I think, through Best Start, we can develop that method or that way to get that information across,” Mlynar said.
"A gap was bridged with the mayor's visit," said Miguel Perla, a community facilitator for the Best Start Palmdale meetings who has been working with the partnership for about three years.
Perla thinks it's a great start to have an elected leader like the mayor visit. Palmdale, a high desert community in Los Angeles, faces issues such as limited access to child care, long commute times to work and limited open hours at public libraries.
According to information from the 2010 Palmdale Census, about 11.6 percent of the population are under age 5, and a quarter of parents are single females. Also, families living in poverty are nearly 5 percent higher in Palmdale than in Los Angeles.
"What we're looking to do is to find ways to reconnect people with information or resources, to break the cycle of poverty," Perla said.
A major issue in the community is child care. While residents can afford the cheaper rents, the cost of gas and commuting often exceed the cost of child care, and some parents are forced to stay home, or leave their children with other family members.
"People get discouraged and stop fighting for their kids because they're not being heard" -Latreece Boucet
Latreece Boucet, a Palmdale mother of three who works with preschool-aged children, shares this concern. Although she said the mayor’s attendance was good for the community, Boucet also emphasized that access to early education will determine their children’s future.
While Best Start plays an important step in spreading knowledge about resources such as computer classes, library access, food and volunteer opportunities, Boucet said there needs to be a stronger push for parents’ education when it comes to their children's early education.
“People get discouraged and stop fighting for their kids because they're not being heard,” Boucet said.
Despite the state of childhood education in Palmdale, Perla is hopeful.
“It really is about building the capacity of the community residents to meet the needs of the parents with children aged 0 to 5,” he said.
With the help of both Mylnar and City Librarian Thomas Vose, who stayed for the entire meeting and were eager to assist the community, Perla is confident that connecting residents to these resources will be much easier.
“I do feel like we have an open door at this point,” Perla said.