Toyota Family Learning: East Palo Alto’s Neighborhood Cleanup


Noting the sheer amount of litter and pollution in their East Palo Alto community, the Toyota Family Learning participants at East Palo Alto Library decided to host a community cleanup as their inaugural Family Service Learning project.

This project was initiated by the parents, who also spent their Parent Time discussing the cause and effects of litter and pollution and brainstorming solutions to the problem. In Parent Time and Parent and Child Together (PACT) Time® parents and their children planned, investigated, organized, and executed the preparations and outreach for the event.

100_1971Excited and inspired to demonstrate for their children and fellow community members the importance of taking pride in the community, the Toyota Family Learning parents wanted to send the message to leaders that East Palo Alto families care about the maintenance of their streets, parks, and other public places.

A few of the parents went to the City of East Palo Alto officials to share their intentions to clean the streets, which sparked a larger collaboration and excitement with the city and other community partners: East Palo Alto Police Department, East Palo Alto Public Works Department, The Second Harvest Food Bank, and The Alleluia Church in East Palo Alto.


In fact, on the morning of Saturday, January 17, East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier and City Manager Carlos Martinez joined the Toyota Family Learning families and volunteers as they gathered litter and chanted that East Palo Alto families were united to clean up for the future.

One family member said, “I’ve never organized an event like this before and I was nervous to go in and talk to the city [officials] but I was surprised how cooperative everyone has been and how involved the parents and the community are in this event.”

A public celebration was held at Jack Farrell Park in East Palo Alto. San Mateo County Library staff members volunteered their time to set up activity stations to engage families to have fun learning together. Staff also distributed donated meals to the participants, and in the spirit of keeping the community clean, reusable water bottles provided by Toyota were distributed as well.

Program director Elena Valle said, “It has been great to see all the families working together and coming up with strategies for making an impact in their community. There has been so much attention and care that has gone into this project.”

Update: Toyota Family Learning families and volunteers collected over two thousand gallons of trash.

Toyota Family Learning, a 6-year nationwide initiative led by NCFL, was created to address educational needs and provide opportunities for low-income and ethnically-diverse families to roll up their sleeves and build stronger communities. NCFL knows that when children and families solve community issues together, they are simultaneously learning and applying 21st century college and career readiness skills.