Centro Latino offers an After School Tutoring Program and a Summer Program free of charge to help local children gain an academic advantage. Centro Latino’s After School Program currently serves 25 students attending Columbia Public elementary and middle schools. The program was established in September 2002 under the initiative of two University of Missouri-Columbia students: Steffanie Sing, Office of Service Learning, and Linda Manning. Linda created these programs to balance the disparities in the classroom between native English speakers and students who have learned English as a second language. In addition, a strong emphasis is placed on the promotion of literacy.

Centro Latino’s After School Program is a homework assistance program for Latino children between Kindergarten and 12th grade. The After School Program is held at Centro Latino Monday through Thursday from 3:30-5:30 p.m.The target population to the After School Tutoring Program is Latino and non-Latino children enrolled in Columbia Public Schools and local private schools.

Centro volunteers provide transportation to the students from their schools to Centro Latino. Once at Centro Latino, each child has a personal volunteer who devotes their full attention to the student for the duration of the time at Centro Latino. The volunteers help the children with homework from 4:00 until 5:00. The level and type of assistance is based on academic reports provided by CPS; students who finish their homework are encouraged to practice reading and writing.

The primary goals of the After School Program are to assist children in homework completion, strengthen reading and math skills, and help them improve their overall grade card scores. The After School Program is effectively accomplishing this goal. The long-term goal of the program is to instill in these children the love of learning, a work ethic for homework completion, and confidence and faith in their own academic abilities. Through this service, Centro Latino hopes to change the odds for Latino children, and change the face of their future. Centro Latino anticipates that the outcomes of this service to be an increase in retention rates for high school students, an increase in the percentage of Latinos who continue to higher education, and an increase in the standard of living for Latinos in mid-Missouri.

Funding for the After School Program was provided by the City of Columbia for 5 years and the programs continues now through the support of community members and donations from the general public. The program provides transportation to Centro Latino, daily snacks, and tutoring in reading, writing, and mathematics. Several times each semester, the students have the opportunity to participate in field trips in the community. Past trips have included the Daniel Boone Regional Library, the Activities and Recreation Center, and local parks.

The need for Centro Latino’s After School Program. According to the Nation Center for Education Statistics, Hispanic students have a status dropout rate of 27.8%, compared with Whites at 6.9%, Blacks at 13.1%, and Asians/Pacific Islanders at 3.8%. ( The children that come to Centro Latino struggle against these odds, and the prejudices they induce, everyday. Most of these students come from homes in which Spanish is the first language. In such a home, parents find it frustrating and difficult to help their child finish his or her homework when it is written in a foreign language. At Centro Latino, students find knowledgeable volunteers who can help the students complete homework while encouraging academic growth. Centro Latino also provides a safe place for the students, keeping them out of the reach of drugs, alcohol, and violence. At Centro Latino they are ensured positive role models, a clean and warm environment, and an understanding of their cultural heritage.

The long-term goal of the After School is in accordance with a major component of Centro Latino’s mission: to empower Latino people. Tutors support and encourage the students, helping them help themselves. Centro Latino provides an environment in which Latino students are expected to succeed, urged to do their best, and heartily rewarded for success. In doing so, Centro Latino hopes to instill in these children the love of learning, belief in oneself, and hope for the future. Students enrolled in the After School Program are referred to the MU Extension’s Latino Youth Futures Program for students entering high school, 12 years and up. In the future, the staff and volunteers of Centro Latino hope to hear of these students graduating from high school, attending college, obtaining skilled job positions, and becoming active community members.


Centro Latino offers English as a Second Language classes to whoever needs to learn the language. The classes are offered free of charge each Monday from 6pm to 7:30pm. Donations between $5 are welcome and appreciated. The classes are held year round with breaks for holidays. The classes are designed to help beginning students gain a basic understanding of the English language and become comfortable with it. The target population is working-class, Spanish-speaking Latinos living in mid-Missouri. Centro Latino is able to attract many students from this population due to its constant contact with the Latino population in Columbia. Centro Latino has offered English classes since its inception in April 2000.

Learning English is vital to the empowerment and advancement of Latinos living in mid-Missouri. Without a basic understanding of English, Latinos find it difficult to do everything from applying for jobs to shopping for groceries. The short-term goal of Centro Latino’s ESL program is to help Latinos do these tasks with ease by learning to communicate in English. ESL classes at Centro Latino strive to attain part of our mission by providing guidance in navigating the health, education, and cultural resources in mid-Missouri. The long-term goal of Centro Latino’s ESL classes is to enable the ESL students to become more competent, confident, and self-sufficient members of the community. The community benefits from Centro Latino’s service in the formation of such civic members. Increased communication and understanding lead to a more unified community aimed toward common goals.

Centro Latino partners with Frederick Douglas School for Adult Education. Intermediate and advanced English classes are offered at Frederick Douglas School. Centro Latino urges students to continue their education at the Frederick Douglas school after satisfactory completion of classes at Centro Latino. Douglass School offers GED classes as well.

Contact Vicki Boyd-Kennedy for more information about ESL Classes Read more about Vicki on our Board of Directors Page.


Spanish Classes are held at Centro Latino. The cost for these classes is $10 per session. These courses are open to anyone who would like to improve their basic Spanish-speaking skills. Classes are held Tuesday from 5 to 6pm
Please call 573-449-9442 and/or send an email to if you have any questions. You can leave a message in Spanish or English. Puede dejar un mensaje en español o en inglés.


Centro Latino’s 2014 Summer Program: Active and Fresh will be held July 11-August 4, Mondays through Thursdays from 12:00-4:00 pm. The focus of the program is to promote exercise through activity and good nutrition through healthy meals. Each day our participants will do a fun and energetic activity, like walking to Douglass Pool and swimming, then return to Centro Latino for a nutritional meal provided by volunteers. On Thursdays Sandra Zapata will teach a Veggie Friendly Kids in the Kitchen class and the kids will learn to prepare their own healthy meal for the day.