South Bend Tribune, posted Saturday, August 10, 2013, by SBT correspondent Gene Stowe
SOUTH BEND -- El Campito, founded more than 40 years ago to serve the children of migrant farmworkers, is bringing the harvest home.
Laura Jensen, a 2010 Ball State University graduate and former kindergarten teacher who became executive director of the center last November, has started a Unity Garden and opened up the building’s second story for more community activities.
“It plays up how we started with the migrant workers working in the fields,” Jensen says. “We still have that Latino background. We still have a few migrant families. Most of them are settled and a lot of them are working in factories not far from here.
“We have kind of moved into a lot of different backgrounds and nationalities,” including youngsters fluent in Hindi, Spanish and English, and English-speaking families who want their children to grow up with Spanish speakers.
El Campito has about a dozen children each in classes for toddlers, ages 3-4, ages 4-5 and elementary school to age 12. With a licensed capacity of 64, it has room to grow. Jensen won grants to start a half-day kindergarten readiness class this year.
The Unity Garden grows on land where St. Stephen Catholic Church stood until it was razed in 2003. El Campito’s building was the church’s school. Jensen aims to make the space, both inside and out, a thriving community center.
“This building for me has untapped potential,” she says, adding that fruit trees will be planted in the garden. “There’s so many different vegetables in there. I think it’s a great thing for the community. Anybody’s free to use it.”
Director of El Campito Child Development Center Laura Jensen stands in front of the new mural at El Campito in South Bend.