ALMA Brings Latinas in Kodiak Together
The thriving salmon and crab fishing industry was the bait that attracted Nancy Castro’s family to settle in Kodiak in 1999. They migrated legally from Mexico with the hope of a better life. Nancy was 21, and by attending St. Mary’s Parish Catholic Church, she found the key to her spiritual and personal growth. By being one of the most active founding members of ALMA (Association of Latin Women in Alaska), she returns to the community the support she received.
While her family worked at the fish processing plant, Nancy, who was already a mother of a three-year-old daughter, cleaned houses and took care of other children. “At St. Mary’s Church I met Father Fred Bugarin and the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Barbara Harrington, and Carol Bartol. They, along with theologian Maria Isasi Diaz, had the idea of creating a group of Latinos, and another of Filipinos, to improve the life of these communities in the family, cultural, and economic areas,” said Nancy.
ALMA was born in 2001. Gloria Quezada and Saily Latino were entrepreneurial women and excellent contributors. Nancy was secretary and coordinator at the beginning when the group was established, she continues as treasurer. “Being part of ALMA inspired me to educate myself more. Little Sister Barbara encouraged me to continue my English studies and later, I earned my GED, then graduated from Kodiak College with a degree in Accounting and Business Administration. I felt that I wanted to give back to Hispanic and Latino people for all the support received through ALMA.”
ALMA activities took place in the Marian center of St. Mary’s Church. From finance and business classes to cooking courses, talks on migration, and even dances for the community, little by little, a welcoming atmosphere was felt, bringing together 30 members.
ALMA’s first activity was having a booth at the Crab Festival and raising money by selling pupusas and tamales.
Their “star” activity is the ALMA scholarship, which was created in 2015 to promote the education of the children of the group members. “Financial aid is $500 per semester for university classes, technical or vocational. It is intended for women and men of Latino or Hispanic roots residing in Kodiak. Ten people have already received this benefit and some even several times,” Nancy said. “This scholarship program is supported by the food sales we make at the ComFish Alaska show. We sell fish tacos.”
Another activity is the summer program for young people between 13 and 15 years old. “We teach them the process of filling out applications, we do the interview, we place them in secure jobs, and we pay their salary.”
As time went by, Father Bugarin and the Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart were sent to other destinations. The ALMA group is still standing. Its current president is Cecilia Esparza and its secretary, Peny Lamp. They carry out, as from the beginning, voluntary work.
“Being a financial advisor at the Kodiak College, my work made me see that our young people in the Hispanic and Latino community think that college is not for them, and they cannot access scholarships. I want to promote their education and economic development from my position. Additionally, I can create strong relationships with Latinos and Hispanics to promote the group and support them in their goals.”
Nancy has three children and a life partner in Kodiak. “I have the benefit of having a family in the community, watching my children grow up and live in a friendly and safe town,” Nancy concluded.
ALMA has a Facebook page. To request information about membership, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Nancy Castro at 907-942-2479