Updated: May 28
Long before Jasmine Flores would become the first Latina to be elected to the Erie City Council, she was a six year-old student at Pfeiffer Burleigh who came to the Kids Cafe every day after school. One of the things she remembers most clearly from that time was working on a public art project with many of the other children, painting and decorating a large statue of a fish and writing their wishes on it. Those wishes included lines like, “I wish drugs didn’t exist,” “I wish someone would give me a hug,” and, “I wish my sister would come home.” When the statue was installed on the corner of Ninth and Parade Streets, Jasmine was at the head of the line of children who processed there from the Kids Cafe, carrying banners with even more wishes.
Nowadays, in her role as a city councilwoman, Jasmine still tries to carry her community’s needs and hopes forward into the public eye, working for good solutions to the problems created by poverty and inequity.
During a recent visit to the Emmaus Ministries office, Jasmine reflected on how her time at the Kids Cafe helped prepare her for a career in community organizing, activism, and local politics.
“Part of what made the Kids Cafe so special for me was that it was one of the few places where I really felt seen and heard as a little kid growing up on the lower east side,” she said. “As the daughter of immigrants, it helped me a lot to have native English speakers checking my homework and helping me with grammar and spelling. But most of all, if I hadn’t gone to the Kids Cafe, I might not have known any adults who really validated me.”
Jasmine attended the Kids Cafe from 1999-2001, during the school year and in the summers. She remembers taking field trips and going shopping for a new pair of school shoes each year, all of which helped her to have the confidence that she would later use as a councilwoman. “It’s so important to me to empower the community–especially our young people and young girls in particular–to be successful leaders,” Jasmine said. “It makes my heart so happy that the Kids Cafe is still active and still thriving. The Kids Cafe, Emmaus Ministries and the Benedictine Sisters are doing so much for young people.” She hopes to come and speak to the children at the Kids Cafe before the end of the school year, to encourage them to use their voices for the good of the whole community.
Top: Jasmine, second from left, with Kids Cafe Coordinator, Jane Wagner; Ministry Assistant, Valerie Luckey, OSB; Director, Mary Miller, OSB
Bottom: Jasmine, front left, in a parade at the Kids Cafe