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Mothers’ Club Uplifts Families From All Angles

The year was 1961 when a woman named Mara Moser reached out to the loneliest and most overwhelmed mothers in northwest Pasadena with the hope of bringing them together for friendship and mutual support. Throughout the next half-century, this network expanded to include early childhood programs as well as a parent education department that together aimed to enhance the development of area youth while responding to the needs of families living in isolation and poverty.
Today, Mothers’ Club Family Learning Center has become a local leader when it comes to preparing these families for success in school and in life by providing free social and educational services at the nonprofit’s facility on North Fair Oaks Avenue.
“We feel that the most impactful way to elevate a family is you’ve really got to give the parents the skill sets, not just in their educational levels but on the parenting side — which is something that we also focus on,” said Mothers’ Club Executive Director Hector LaFarga Jr. “If you become a good parent, you become heavily involved in the education of your children.”
The approach is called “two-generation learning” and it forms the crux of Mothers’ Club. As parents and children ages 0 to 5 simultaneously acquire new skills, positive learning outcomes emerge for both generations. The Plascencia family represents a prime example of this effect.
Angel Plascencia had finished two years of college in Mexico City when she moved to Pasadena with her husband, Cristian, a little more than a decade ago. She did not speak any English and stayed at home while Cristian worked. Soon after the couple’s daughter was born, a cousin referred the family to Mothers’ Club.
“We wanted to get involved
because we knew it was a child development program, but we didn’t know what was [within] those walls,” Angel Plascencia said in Spanish as Cristian translated by her side. “… Once we got in here, we saw all of the opportunities, not just for the kids, but for us, too — like the opportunity to learn English and to advance and grow as a human being.”
The services that Mothers’ Club offers for parents include mental health support, family literacy, computer training, and health and wellness. There is a morning program that operates year-round and allows parents to take classes four days a week and assist in their child’s classrooms during the other day. Mothers’ Club also encourages parents to become involved in their child’s elementary school by serving on event planning and fundraising committees.
“I never thought that I was going to be the PTA treasurer at Roosevelt Elementary,” said Angel Plascencia, referring to the opportunity she has been afforded at her 7-year-old daughter’s school.
While the couple’s daughter has “graduated” from Mothers’ Club, their 3-year-old son is currently receiving services. An afternoon program at Mothers’ Club places children in classrooms, where a rotation of 18 teachers ensures individualized attention. Meanwhile, mothers — and occasionally fathers — are present to develop rapport with other parents and strengthen bonds during the most critical stages of their children’s development.
“The education that [my son] is getting and the support that I’m getting from Mothers’ Club has been phenomenal,” said Plascencia, who also serves as president of a Mothers’ Club advisory group, vice president of a local English Learner Advisory Committee and leads nutrition classes within the Pasadena Public Health Department.
Mothers’ Club Program Director Silvana Casalegno is influential in providing these growth opportunities for clients such as Plascencia. She has spent nearly 20 years championing at-risk families in order to help them reach their potential.
“Once you start seeing the people go from quiet, submissive, scared in many ways because of a different society, and then they start figuring out their skills and they start blooming and becoming aware of their strengths, that’s fantastic,” Casalegno said. “I always say blooming because, to me, it is like a flower.”
Mothers’ Club employs 32 full-time staff members, including teachers, administrators and a development team. Student volunteers from the local community help out with a weekend book club, pen-pal program and as tutors for English as a second language courses. Mental health interns from Pacific Oaks College in Pasadena offer social-emotional support for Mothers’ Club clients as well.
“This is a powerful place,” said LaFarga Jr. “This culture of being welcoming and educating and empowering, it really does work. Our staff is very, very committed. They’re great. They’re talented in delivering the services that we do.
“A good number of our teachers were parents here. They brought their children here. They benefitted from the service and they actually liked the field of early childhood education, so they pursued their education, got the appropriate number of units to get started and we’re able to employ them. It’s a great outcome.”
The Plascencias are entering their third year at Mothers’ Club, and Angel recently obtained her driver’s license with guidance from the organization. She can now transport her son and herself to the facility in a car rather than walking several miles on foot, a journey that was often difficult in the heat and cold. Plascencia is also working with Mothers’ Club to validate her Mexican college credits in the United States. Meanwhile, Cristian doesn’t let the name of the organization stop him from volunteering whenever possible.
“If I ever became a millionaire,” he said, “I would build these all over the world because this is what I think our future needs for our kids — the education, the knowledge, the support.”

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