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SPECIAL HEAD START PROGRAM PAYING OFF FOR UTAH MIGRANTS

Without the Head Start program for the children of migrant farm workers, Julieta Lopez wouldn't have been able to earn a living.

"We cannot afford to pay a regular Head Start," she said. "If we didn't have this program, only our husbands can work."Lopez came to Utah with her husband and two children in hopes of finding more opportunity than existed in their native Mazatlan, Mexico. Despite divorcing her husband two years ago, Lopez can still work and care for her children with the help of the Head Start program.

She got involved in the Head Start program through Centro de la Familia, a nonprofit organization started by Chicanos for Chicanos 20 years ago.

It was 1974 when a group of frustrated Chicanos got together to form Centro de la Familia, then called the Institute of Human Resource Development. What distinguishes Centro de la Familia from other outreach programs is the way it delivers services.

"The office offers a place where people can go and feel comfortable speaking in their native language," said Matt Chavez, a former participant in the Hispanic Youth Leadership Institute. Mentors came to Chavez' high school to show young Chicanos that they can succeed.

Chavez said the contacts he made helped him get scholarship money for college.

"I think seeing the (role models) is encouragement," he said. "I didn't see a lot of leadership roles that were held by Hispanic people."

Current Centro de la Familia director Manuel Romero is one of the contacts Chavez made. The 20-year-old computer science major said meeting and becoming friends with people like Romero make him feel as though he can succeed even in professions filled with people that don't look like him.

Centro's employees and volunteers reach out to everyone from migrant farmers to troubled teens. Romero will deliver a report to the community at the 20th anniversary party planned for April 11 at the Red Lion, 255 S. West Temple, at 6 p.m.