In 1995, a group of educators from the Alhambra Unified School District came together and formed the Alhambra Latino Association (ALA). The original vision of creating a Latino Association was to bring together all Latino cultures in the district while focusing on promoting cultural awareness, supporting student groups and ultimately to award Latino students with scholarships. Tony Ortega, an educator at Mark Keppel High School, became the founding President and some of the original founding members of ALA still serve on the Advisory Board today; Lilia Sarmiento, Ph.D. and Dora Padilla.
With the support of many educators, parents, community members and friends within the Alhambra Unified School District ALA was able to have its inaugural fundraiser, “Festival Cultural Latino” in December of 1995. The event featured entertainment by the Latino community and school performing groups along with professional Mariachi performers and master of ceremony, comedian Rudy Moreno. The event was an instant success and is to date, one of ALA’s biggest events of the year. The theme of this cultural event changes every year. Most recently, in 2012, the theme was “Dia De Los Muertos Celebration”. This event brought to light the importance in the Latino culture of honoring and remembering loved ones. Aztec dancers, musical performances, authentic food vendors and a widely popular art contest made this unique cultural event a memorable one.
The first “Festival Cultural Latino” was backed by many supporters including: the Alhambra Unified School District, Bilingual Bicultural Education and the Asian American Association. With the help of these organizations, ALA raised funds to initiate its scholarship program and to spearhead years of Latino cultural and arts events to come.
In 1997, ALA gave a percentage of their proceeds to all elementary sites to assist 8th graders as they transitioned to high school. The ALA board also developed a scholarship program to award one senior from each of the main high schools in the district (Alhambra High, Mark Keppel High, San Gabriel High, Century High) a $500 scholarship. In June of 1997, ALA held it’s first scholarship awards ceremony. This ceremony would later become the “ALA Annual Fundraiser Dinner and Dance”, one of our biggest events of the year.
In 1998, ALA started a tradition of awarding a community member at the Annual Fundraiser Dinner and Dance. That year, Dora Padilla, a member of the Alhambra Board of Education, was honored for her outstanding accomplishments in representing children of the Latino community and her support in providing them with equal educational opportunities. Every year since, ALA has honored an outstanding and deserving community member at the ALA Scholarship Banquet.
Independence High School was incorporated into the scholarship program in 1998. Throughout the years, the scholarship amount has increased thanks to the annual fall Festival and spring Dinner/Dance, and to generous contributions of our members, donors and supporters. In 2013, the five scholarships being awarded will increase to $1000 per student. The goal is to increase the amount every year.
The Alhambra Latino Association has a wide range of professionals who are dedicated to making ALA’s goals come to life. Our members are Alhambra Unified School District employees, parents, and community members while others are business professionals working in public office, real estate, and private businesses. ALA's members come from a great variety of fields giving it the expertise and commitment it needs to succeed in making its goals a reality.
2013 marked a year of change for ALA. ALA Scholarship recipient in 2000, Lluvia Arras, has helped the board by volunteering her expertise as a designer to create a new logo and brand look for ALA. The new “brand” look with its vibrant colors and illustrative feel, was designed with the thought of reaching out to a wider and more diverse membership.
In this very exciting time, ALA is looking forward to new members and your generous support to help us make a big difference in the lives of the many talented and promising young Latinos in our community.