STOCKTON — Richard Soto envisioned what a $5,000 investment could do in the Stockton Latino community, especially to help students.

So after some coaxing and encouragement from a friend, the former school counselor decided to apply for a “groundbreaking” initiative aimed at investing in Central Valley organizations working to “unleash Latino civic and economic power.”

Recently, Soto’s Chicano Research Center, along with Fathers & Families of San Joaquin and Stockton Schools Initiatives, became one of the 37 nonprofits chosen to benefit from the Latino Community Foundation’s “Roots of Latino Power” initiative.

LCF, in partnership with The James Irvine Foundation, announced on Thursday a $1 million investment in Latino-led organizations across the Central Valley over this next year.

The three Stockton nonprofits received varying amounts to help each organization create opportunities for Latino families and youth to thrive.

The Chicano Research Center, founded by Soto, received $5,000 for a tutoring program he designed to help Latino boys in eighth grade. And while the grant won’t fund the entire program, the seed money will help him launch it.

“This small grant that we received is going to give us a chance to do something,” Soto said.

Soto said the “8 to 9 Pathway” program will help five to 10 eighth-graders from four junior high schools by providing school guidance and tutoring at the Chicano Research Center, 2182 E. Main St. in Stockton. Parent involvement will be required.

The focus will be on preparing the students to successfully transition into high school and be on track to pursue higher education.

Soto said he wanted to work with Latino boys in eighth grade, because not only are Stockton students falling behind, but Latino boys are at risk of dropping out of school. Ninth grade is a critical time for students, he added.

“This is one of the most important investments for the Latino Community Foundation,” said Jacqueline Martinez-Garcel, CEO of LCF, in a written statement. “We strongly believe in the visionary leadership of our grassroots leaders and youth. Investing to amplify their power and advance their vision will have a transformative impact on the present and future of the Valley.”

Fathers & Families of San Joaquin received a $100,000 grant to support its operations and infrastructure, said Hannah Divino, operations director with Fathers & Families. The funds will help with program and professional development, which ultimately will help the organization continue to help the community.

Part of the partnership with the LCF also includes access to training and networking for the Central Valley organizations.

According to the LCF, grantees will receive technical support from nationally recognized coaches on communications and fundraising.

Latino families account for nearly 50 percent of the population in the Central Valley and “are the driving force of the economy, this initiative will aim to ensure that they also benefit from economic growth in the region,” the LCF stated.

“The Central Valley remains one of the fastest growing regions in California, with Latinos leading the way,” Martinez-Garcel said. “It is imperative to invest in their leadership because only then will everyone win across the state.”

Camille Zapata, Stockton Schools Initiative’s communications and media relations strategist, said the LCF wants to uplift Stockton stories, strengthen Latino-led initiatives and create a network to leverage their power for positive policy changes.

Stockton Schools Initiative was founded in 2015 as a response to the low student achievement rate in Stockton schools, according to the organization. Its goal is to increase student achievement by encouraging parent and student involvement and civic participation.

SSI, which was awarded $25,000, will use a portion of the funding for its Education Equity Summit on Aug. 3 at Hamilton Elementary School and its “Ed Equity on the Go.”

Said Zapata: “By investing in Stockton Schools Initiative, (the Latino Community Foundation) is showing Latinx solidarity within Stockton and across the valley.”

Contact reporter Almendra Carpizo at (209) 546-8264 or Follow her on Twitter @AlmendraCarpizo.