Latinx Heritage Tour: Wilson Center
The Wilson Center acted as an incubator for a variety of Latino social programs throughout the 1970s and 80s, launching services that continue to support Hispanic culture and life in Mount Pleasant today.
In 1968, Reverend Antonio Welty reopened the former National Presbyterian Church (where President Woodrow Wilson preferred to worship while in the White House) to Hispanic community members. Two years after this initial contact, the Reverend Welty offered educational space attached to the church for community meetings—thus the Wilson Center began as a space to host communal gatherings and new organizations dedicated to supporting the Hispanic and Latin immigrant community.
Reverend Welty and fellow community members established CADOLANCA (Comite de Ayuda y Desarollo de Latinoamericanos en la Capital de la Nacion) which encouraged individuals to campaign for their rights and cultivate support from DC officials. The Wilson Center partnered with and played host to organizations such as the Latin American Youth Center, CARECEN (Central American Refugee Center), Centro de Arte, La Clinica Del Pueblo, EPICA (Ecumenical Program on Central American and The Caribbean), and the Columbia Road Children’s Center (currently the Barbara Chambers Children’s Center).
In 2000 the National Capital Presbytery decided to put the Wilson Center building up for sale. The tenants at the time (Centro de Arte, The Barbara Chambers Children’s Center, EPICA, and Clinica Del Pueblo) expressed interest in purchasing the property, but ultimately the Capital City Public Charter School acquired the property.Today, the building is home to Next Step (El Proximo Paso) Public Charter School, which originated from a Latin American Youth Center program for teen parents. Next Step provides a full-time day program in addition to an evening program—70% of the students are English language learners and about 20% are young parents. Students are provided with a full academic schedule in both English and Spanish with flexible, individualized pacing.
Scallen, Patrick. (2019). "The Bombs That Drop in El Salvador Explode in Mount Pleasant": From Cold War Conflagration to Immigrant Struggles in Washington, DC, 1970–1995 (Order No. 27670053). Available from ProQuest Central; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global.