“It’s Not What I’ve Done, It’s What They’ve Done for Me.”
Karina Moreno-Corgan ’01, M.A. ’03, is the president of Dolores Mission School, a Catholic parish school servicing TK-8 schoolchildren in Boyle Heights. During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools have continued operating and educators have transitioned almost overnight to provide an online education. Dolores Mission School has done likewise, but with many challenges.
“Dolores Mission is a place of consistency, of certainty and it was very scary to take that away from our kids. For some of our kids, we’re the safest and cleanest place. Some of our kids are going home, and home is not the safest place for them. Trying to maintain school schedules, behavior support, social/emotional support for children and parents is very important. My days are spent on Zoom and phone calls, fitting into the new reality, and engaging with people through the internet, which we never had to do before, so it has been interesting.”
Moreno-Corgan’s role heavily involves making sure that students and educators at Dolores Mission are provided for.
“When this happened we immediately thought, ‘What are the implications for our community and what do they need?’ We continue to provide services. It’s been great to work with other nonprofits and agencies in the area to let people know what is provided. Our tuition has remained the same. Parents are very grateful because we are calling and checking in on them. Dolores Mission is not just a place where we deliver education; Dolores Mission has really become a place where we are embracing the whole family and caring for all of their needs. It has been very humbling and a very beautiful thing to see.”
Moreno-Corgan emphasizes the difficulties surrounding the mostly immigrant families that Dolores Mission serves. “Many of our families are undocumented, they didn’t get a stimulus check, they can’t apply for unemployment. They tried to apply to the Angelenos Guard, but those funds were quickly depleted. For some families, rent is a huge issue.”
Thankfully, through the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, grants and generous donations, Dolores Mission has been able to provide rent, money, supplies and Wi-Fi-enabled devices to families who are in need. “We were able to support our families and also provide emotional support. We offer art therapy through LMU’s department of marital and family therapy. An art therapist has been doing family or individual therapy. We have therapy for parents and the therapist is seeing four to five parents a week for those who need the support.
For Moreno-Corgan, her passion for education and dedication to her community goes back to her Jesuit education.
“The Jesuits have formed me, but also working in the Dolores Mission school, I’ve been here 13 years as the principal and then as the president, and the one thing that I’ve learned over the course of my time as an educator is that these underserved communities are beautiful and perfect as they are. And it wasn’t about me coming in to save them, it was about me walking with people and joining people in their moments of sorrow, joining them in their moments of happiness. It’s just walking with people and having them remember the goodness of who they are and the person that God intended them to be. I feel like it’s not what I’ve done, it’s what they’ve done for me. I’m a madrina for so many kids at Dolores Mission; I’ve been at funerals, at weddings, baptisms. It’s not what I’ve done. I’m very grateful to have landed in such an amazing place.”
“The thing that I value and cherish LMU for is that they did a good job of showing me how to be a woman for others and how to be of service. Not just how to give my time, but give my heart, my work. I am forever indebted, because when I went to LMU, I was really cared for by mentors and professors who really wanted me to succeed and do well. The late Pam Rector and the Center for Service and Action were always there for me. And they’ve stayed with me, still stay with me, like Joanne Connolly, S.S.L., who would come and bring things to our kids at Dolores Mission and the LMU marital and family therapy department giving our families art therapy. We’ve had great friends that continue to support Dolores Mission and my work professionally and personally. That’s what LMU did for me and for all of us. That’s why we love LMU.”