El Centro partners with Trenton high school to help immigrant students succeed


Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is partnering with Trenton Public Schools to help immigrant students at Daylight/Twilight High School succeed in the classroom.

El Centro, a Catholic Charities program that serves the Spanish-speaking community in Greater Mercer County, recently took over an office at the school on East Hanover Street. Bertha Ramirez, an El Centro case manager (pictured right), will meet students there every Tuesday to determine their needs.

El Centro is a family-strengthening program that provides people with basic needs assistance, job training, ESL and parenting classes, children’s services (mentoring, summer camp, and an after-school program), and immigration services.

Daylight/Twilight is an alternative public high school. It serves both returning adult students and children who are over-aged and under-credited for their grade or have otherwise struggled in a traditional high school.

Focusing on students’ strengths

So many students there are immigrants struggling with a language barrier that administrators created a new “Trenton Global Academy” this school year to help them succeed and build community. About 700 students attend Daylight/Twilight. Three-quarters of the students in the Trenton Global Academy are Latino, said Principal Rosario Casiano (pictured below with Roberto Hernandez). The school has many bilingual teachers and educators certified in teaching English as a second language (ESL), she added.

“Our students come in with so many strengths,” Casiano said. “When we think about a program for students with interrupted education, some people think of the deficits first. But we don’t – we think about their strengths. But with an interrupted education, there are some gaps. So with this partnership with El Centro, we can build a plan and give the students the tools they need to fill those gaps and succeed. “

Holistic approach

Roberto Hernandez, El Centro’s longtime director and founder, agreed. “Our approach is this: How can we holistically support the education of these students and address the social, the environmental, and all the other factors that play into a healthy outcome?” he said. “We want to find out what’s going on in the home that is not allowing the child to reach their full potential – and address that.”

El Centro has supported Daylight/Twilight in other ways, too. El Centro provided school supplies for Daylight/Twilight students. Staffers also held a well-attended immigration workshop during Back-to-School Night last fall.

To reach on El Centro, which is located at 327 S. Broad St. in Trenton, call (609) 394-2056.

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