TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Cornerstone Family Ministries has been educating Tampa Bay youth while also helping parents through their free services for more than 130 years.
The Rosa Valdez Learning Center has sat at 1802 N. Albany Ave. in East Tampa since 1892. It was opened by Rosa Valdez, a Hispanic woman who lived in Tampa. She was overwhelmed by the amount of immigrant families moving to the area, and the children who couldn’t go to regular public school because of segregation. That’s when she opened the school to ensure Latino children were able to go to school.
More than a century later, the school has expanded to three locations and continues to impact local families.
“It just always felt like home,” said Ulesia Harris.
East Tampa is home for Harris. She is now raising her three children in the same neighborhood. Two of her children spent their first five years at the Rosa Valdez Center. Now, her youngest son, Mason currently attends the school.
“It’s like I’m not really taking them to school, I’m taking them to my parents house,” Harris said. “I’ve always felt love.”
In addition to offering a quality education, the school offers a lot of free services for families, like free VPK, school readiness, pampers, wipes, free breakfast lunch and snack and scholarships.
“Being a single parent is tough, so with having a scholarship it made things a lot better for us in my household,” Harris said. “I’m able to make sure food is on the table, make sure we have lights and a roof over our head.”
Cathy Stone, the Executive Director of Cornerstone Family Ministries knows what it is like for families that are struggling.
“I remember as a single parent for many years how difficult it was for me not having access to any assistance,” Stone said. “I grew up in a family that didn’t have a lot.”
Under Stone’s leadership, the school even offers a learning lab where adults can get a degree in early childhood education with 80 percent of their tuition paid for. The school has had nearly 10 people graduate from the program so far. Stone said the school is all about supporting parents and students.
“The Rosa Valdez Center has become a model of excellence in serving families who can’t afford quality care but desire that for their children and deserve to have it for their children,” Stone said.
Stone said the school is in need of money that will go toward scholarships for students and building an enclosed gate for security. The school operates solely on donations and grants. Saturday, the school will host their main fundraiser, Wonder Walk. People in the community can participate in-person or virtually. They’re goal is to raise $150,000. WFLA’s Deanne King is set to host the Wonder Walk event.