IHSD Family Services Coordinator Melissa shares her story serving IHSD from the coast.

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Working on the coast for IHSD is such a unique and rewarding experience.  Many people know of and have visited the now very popular tourist town of Half Moon Bay.  The roads crowd each weekend with people from all around to visit it’s beaches, pumpkin patches, and Christmas tree farms, as well as to eat at incredible restaurants.  However, Half Moon Bay was not always so well-known, and only relatively recently has become such a popular destination.  Although it is constantly changing and growing, there are still many “small town” characteristics that make it such a great place to work, and a special place for our children and families to live. Before going any further, I think it’s important to mention that the joy I find in working on the Coast is greatly influenced by my own personal story.

I was born and raised in Half Moon Bay.  My family came here from Italy and Portugal 7 generations ago and spent many years farming the land (mainly artichokes).  I went through the same school system that my parents, and even grandparents, went through.  As a child, Half Moon Bay had even more of a “small town” feel, and you knew everyone you passed by driving on Highway 1.

Half Moon Bay was not always so well-known, and only relatively recently has become such a popular destination.

There were no tourists on the weekends, as most people at that time did not think it was worth the drive over Highway 92 to a town that most thought didn’t offer much to do. The population was much smaller and I attended school with the same peers from as early as kindergarten all the way through high school graduation, building lifelong friendships along the way.  Many of these friends were children of recent immigrants.   The experience of having such long lasting relationships growing up allowed me to know people intimately, and to therefore know their successes and struggles.  By the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to work helping the people in my community, and more specifically, with the immigrant population.  In 2004, I began my career working with IHSD in many parts of the county, and a couple of years later I was transferred to work on the Coast with the community I know and love.

By the time I was in high school, I knew that I wanted to work helping the people in my community, and more specifically, with the immigrant population.

So, what makes the Coast such a special place to do IHSD’s work?  We are able to incorporate the rich history and the “small town” characteristics of Half Moon Bay into how we work with the children and how we involve our families.  Here are just a few examples:

  • We are an agriculture town – Many of our families work in agriculture and we love it when our parents come into the classroom or a school celebration to do an agricultural activity, such as planting seeds into pots the children have crafted, building planters for the school, or working on our new community garden!  A recent collaboration with our IHSD Head Start parents, local farmer Peter Masters and the non-profit organization Abundant Grace, is a community garden project located behind our school that will serve as an educational space for our children and food for the local free breakfast put on by Abundant Grace twice a week at the Coastside Lutheran Church.  Peter will also be able to use the garden for research on non-toxic fertilizing practices…a win for all three collaborating parties!
  • We have the connections!  We are able to provide annual events by collaborating with local businesses, such as Farmer John’s Pumpkin Patch, who is conveniently located right next door to our Half Moon Bay site, and welcomes us each year for a farm tour and a free pumpkin for each of our 40 children!
  • We have a lot of friends!  We often know the staff very well from the agencies we partner with.  If I have a question about immigration, I know I can call my childhood neighbor, Lorena, Immigration Paralegal, at Coastside Hope.  If I have any questions about mental health services, I can ask Samantha who is a local social worker, but who I also often see at school field trips and events where our kids go to school together.  Many of us live and work here, so we are experts on what the community needs and wants.
  • We learn to be inclusive and accepting at a young age  Our local school district, Cabrillo Unified School District, offers a Spanish immersion program for children grade K-12, which, among other benefits, allows English speaking children to learn Spanish alongside Spanish speaking children, and for Spanish speaking children to learn English alongside English speaking children.  We, at IHSD, offer the same inclusive culture in our preschool classrooms and encourage the sharing and acceptance of all languages, backgrounds, and cultures.
  • You can’t forget the beach!  Half Moon Bay is located between the mountains and beautiful beaches, making it a great outdoor classroom for field trips and parent activities.
  • As our IHSD motto goes – We are all in this together!  I like to start out the first parent meeting of the year by telling parents they better get to know each other now, because they’ll be in this together for a good 15 years or so as their children move on to kindergarten and most likely grow up side by side until high school graduation.

We are able to incorporate the rich history and the “small town” characteristics of Half Moon Bay into how we work with the children and how we involve our families.

All of this and more makes me love to live and work on the coast!  I feel lucky to get to work with families who will raise their children in the same great place I had the privilege of growing up in and build the kind of relationships that can only be made in a small town like Half Moon Bay.

– Melissa Martin, IHSD Family Services Coordinator (Coast)