KIPP Corazón Academy (KCA) in South Gate has a deep connection to its families and community. So deep that during the pandemic, KCA Registrar Carolina Hernández worried about her KCA families who had struggling small businesses.
Hope is one of KCA’s core values, and Hernández was determined to maintain hope in the community. Hernández remembered that in Mexico and Central America, you can always find a “tianguis” (open-air market) with small stalls or shops made up of vendors from the community, which sparked her inspiration to create an open-air market at KCA.
Once COVID restrictions eased up, KCA got the green light to host an outdoor event at the end of 2021. And in just two weeks, Hernández, the KCA Family Leadership Council, and the KCA team quickly put together their first Corazón Community Tianguis in December 2021 to support their families during the holiday season.
“The first event was such a hit. They all loved it. They all appreciated it. We just want to continue doing it year after year,” said Hernández. She was proud of creating an event that celebrated the community's strength, resilience, and solidarity.
Because of the first event's success, KCA hosted a second Corazón Community Tianguis on January 28, 2023, to once again pour love into their community. This year, the event featured 22 KCA family vendors and welcomed more than 400 community members. Vendors sold everything from delicious food, candies, and desserts to clothing, handmade accessories, custom artwork, stickers, and more.
Supernova Exchange booth at the 2nd Annual Corazón Community Tianguis
Among those were KCA parent and tianguis vendor Ricardo Lara, his son (who was a part of the first graduating class at KCA Lower and now attends KCA Upper), and his daughter (who currently attends KCA Lower). The Lara family participated in KCA’s first tianguis event and returned with their Supernova Exchange booth to sell custom clothing and accessories with phrases inspired by his kids, such as “World Changer,” “Makin’ Mama Proud,” and “Mama’s Joy.”
“I was in politics, so I got my kids involved in all the events we had, and they saw me speaking, giving speeches, and advocating for certain issues,” said Lara. “My wife and I always had them along with us during our community work, so they’ve been very outspoken and inspired us to have a line with strong expressions.”
Another vendor was Chelsea Martinez, a former Operations Aid at KCA and whose sister is a first-grade teacher at KCA. She was selling her original art prints, stickers, and bookmarkers from her shop CM Illustrations. Martinez always had a passion for drawing, so she decided to start her business in October 2022 after she left KCA to begin her journey at USC’s Masters of Arts Teaching program.
CM Illustrations booth at the 2nd Annual Corazón Community Tianguis
“I started grad school, so I thought it was a good opportunity to start a business to get extra money for books. So I started drawing again, and the ideas started flowing,” said Martinez. “I found out about this opportunity and took the opportunity to make sure everyone knows my name in this community. I grew up in Huntington Park, but I always came to South Gate to hang out with friends and shop with my family, so it really means a lot to be here.”
In addition to the family vendors, KIPP SoCal’s Advocacy and Community Engagement Manager Bera Portugal supported the KCA school community by inviting community and health service partners to the event, including the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, East LA Women’s Center, National Health Foundation, and 986 Pharmacy. Services included helping families complete WIC and Calfresh applications, administering COVID and flu vaccines, and sharing information about numerous community resources.
Portugal also built a partnership with Budding Artists, a grassroots non-profit organization committed to providing young children with transformative process-focused art experiences. Budding Artist Founder and Executive Director Dakota McMahand started the organization after noticing the need in her community.
Budding Artists booth at the 2nd Annual Corazón Community Tianguis
Growing up, McMahand took free piano lessons at the Watts Towers Arts Center through its Cal Arts Community Arts Partnership program. However, as she got older, she realized there were fewer opportunities in South East Los Angeles to continue her passion for music. McMahand is now a classically trained pianist and credits much of her growth and development to her exposure to music education at the Watts Towers Arts Center.
“I’m an introvert, and being able to express myself without using words and just play a piece of music and touch people was something I gravitated towards,” said McMahand. “It helped me develop necessary social skills in a way that I didn’t realize at the time, but as I got older, I realized the value of it and why the arts play such a significant role in development in general. Whether you become an artist or not.”
In 2022, Budding Artists served over 4,575 children and families. The organization also operates on a part-time basis, meaning everyone on the team works full-time elsewhere and dedicates their free time to the organization.
KCA’s 2nd Annual Corazón Community Tianguis was a true example of what it means for a public school to be of the community, for the community, and by the community. KCA plans on fostering and nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of its community by making this an annual event for many years to come.