Children dancing at the AIU Latino Family Center

Building community at the new Latino Family Center in Hazelwood

On a Wednesday night in August, children at the new Pittsburgh Latino Family Center in Hazelwood rehearse a traditional Mexican dance. The kids are laughing and twirling and having fun, but they’re also experiencing a cultural opportunity that hasn’t always been easy to find in Pittsburgh.

“If you were to take a map of Allegheny County and throw sprinkles at it, that’s the population we serve,” says Rosamaria Cristello, site director at the Latino Family Center. “Our families are everywhere. There’s not necessarily one neighborhood that represents the Latino community.”

So, the Allegheny Intermediate Unit‘s Latino Family Center is building the community that can’t be found in a single Pittsburgh neighborhood—offering a wide range of programming that helps Latino families grow stronger, get connected to useful services and maintain connections to their culture.

After outgrowing its space in Squirrel Hill, the Latino Family Center recently relocated to a larger space in Hazelwood, with a new baby room, an expanded play area where kids can paint, play and read and a “green room,” for older youth.

In addition to offering safe spaces for play, the new Latino Family Center also provides support in other ways. For example, it hosts many classes for families, from basic ESL and other language classes (for both adults and children) to nutrition, prenatal/postpartum care and sewing.

It also provides home visits, where family development specialists visit Latino homes monthly to provide guidance on child development and school readiness. Finally, the center offers service coordination to help Latino families overcome language and cultural barriers to obtaining health care and education in Pittsburgh.

The services offered at the Latino Family Center are largely determined by the families it serves. The center’s parent council meets each month, and every Latino parent is invited to join and share their ideas for new services, programming and events.

Whether it’s dancing, monthly potlucks or language classes, the Latino Family Center is focused on the entire family unit. “We’re here for moms, dads and kids,” says Cristello. “If they need support, we’re here. They see us and our staff as family. They trust us and feel like they are a real part of a community here.”

The Latino Family Center is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Wednesday, from noon to 8 p.m. Families interested in getting involved can drop by, call 412-325-8111 or visit the center’s Facebook page.

Featured photo: Children dance at the Latino Family Center in Hazelwood, Photo courtesy of Allegheny Intermediate Unit