History of BAHIA

Project VIDA, our flagship program, renamed Centro VIDA, and was established in 1975 in a small residential duplex in West Berkeley with an initial enrollment of 20 children and several volunteers, including our founders. Of course, Project VIDA quickly outgrew its first home and moved to the James Kenney location in 1977. Along with securing a site, funding in 1977 became available through the City of Berkeley’s Community Action Agency, and since 1978 BAHIA has received a contract from the State Department of Education, Child Development Division to provide child care services to low income families.

While the James Kenny site was a newly built center and appropriate for child care, our situation was challenging because we shared the site with a second program that served a different age group and had a distinct program philosophy.   It became a priority to identify additional resources and funding to develop an adequate facility to permanently house Project VIDA . In 1979, the BAHIA Board of Directors succeeded in raising $167,243 from state, federal and local resources to acquire an undeveloped lot and build a permanent site for Project VIDA. Unused bungalows were purchased from the Berkeley Unified School District and were relocated to our current site and renovated.   The permanent location and site for our now renamed facility , Centro VIDA .  We officially opened in November, 1982. It was a combined effort of dedicated parents, staff and the BAHIA Board that helped us open and celebrate the opening of our new and permanent home and site at 1000 Camelia Street.  In 1983, BAHIA purchased the adjacent lot next to Centro VIDA to house our Toddler program. Although the Toddler program would not open until September of 1985, word of mouth created a waiting list of over 200 families eager to have their children in our bilingual program which could only accommodate 14 children!  The increase of the indoor and outdoor areas allowed Centro VIDA to provide care for 62 children two to five years of age. The story does not stop there!  The State Department of Education awarded BAHIA a permanent contract to administer the school-age program at the James Kenney Child Care facility in Berkeley. Bahia School Age Program officially opened for operation in November 1988 to provide child care for 53 children ages 6 to 12 years and in 1990 expanded the facility to serve up to 65 school age children.  In 1988 BAHIA was serving 127 children!

Our vision of expanding and serving additional children, came in 2007 when BAHIA opened a Saturday Bilingual Preschool Program, a program funded in large part by First Five of Alameda County. With this funding BAHIA began what is now a well-established program in Alameda County, providing the only bilingual kindergarten readiness program in Alameda County. We move the program from Berkeley to Southern Alameda County in 2009.   La Academia de Centro VIDA in Fremont provides quality bilingual education to children three to five years old that are not in preschool and who need bilingual care and education. Equally important are the Spanish language parenting workshops we provide.  Academia de Centro VIDA is a free service that has attracted well over 40-60 families in one year.   We are very grateful to the generosity of the owner and Director of Little MudPuddles who has lent her facility to our program every Saturday morning and we look forward to continuing this program in Fremont with funding from First Five of Alameda County, Community Target Grants.
To add to our banquet of services to families, in 2010, BAHIA, Inc. embarked on opening a bilingual part-time, morning preschool program at our school age site.  We took the opportunity to house our preschool program at this site because the classroom was ready; and families expressed need for part-time care.  La Academia de Bahia serves 24 preschoolers ages 3-5.  Our facility has a separate license and days of operation from our school age program and operates ten months of the year. Academia de Bahia has been successful in large part because of the high demand families have for bilingual care/education and for part-time services.  Both subsidized and full fee parents are eligible and welcome to apply.
BAHIA’s ability to grow over the years has been in large part due to the dedication and vision of our board, staff and the leadership of our executive director that collectively sees the value and demand for quality bilingual care.  Over the years, BAHIA, Inc. has been recognized on a local, state and national level as an organization that promotes children bilingualism, quality care, and child care for working families; and for Spanish speaking families of young children. Following are just a few of BAHIA’s recognitions.

  • In 1996, BAHIA, received La Promesa Award from the National Latino Children’s Institute.
  • In 1998, BAHIA received the Group Achievement Award from the Berkeley Community Fund.
  •  In 2003 BAHIA’s programs were featured in “Serving Biracial & Multiethnic Children and their Families”, a video produced by the Childcare Health Program.
  • In 2007 BAHIA opened La Academia de Centro VIDA (program is located in Fremont) a Saturday bilingual preschool program serving children ages 3-5 years old. This is a First Five funded program with an enrollment of over 40 children.
  • In 2010, BAHIA opened La Academia de Bahia, a bilingual part-time preschool program serving children 3-5 years of age, Monday through Friday.
  • In 2011, BAHIA was awarded a grant from First 5 to refurbish the exterior of Centro VIDA after 32 years since opening its doors.
  • In 2012, BAHIA receives the Leading for Change Award from the Latino Community Foundation and Wells Fargo

Today in the City of Berkeley, BAHIA proudly continues to be the only Latino non-profit providing bilingual (Spanish-English) full -time child development and education services with a focus on Latino Spanish-Speaking families. Our programs address the need and desire families have for bilingual, culturally and economically diverse learning community for their children.  Many of the children and families that have come through our programs have become lifelong friends. 
We are very proud to share that BAHIA is an institution that is recognized, respected and known for promoting over three generations of bilingual children and has a true commitment to family and community. We welcome ALL families interested in being part of our community and a legacy program in Berkeley dedicated to serving quality bilingual care and education to children.

1000 Camelia Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
(510) 525-1463 (main)
(510) 524-1317 (fax)

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Executive Director

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Bay Area Hispano Institute for Advancement, Inc. is a private, non-profit corporation 501(c)3. BAHIA primarily serves low-income Hispanic families in Northern Alameda County.

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BAHIA Inc. is funded by the California State Department of Education Child Development Division, City of Berkeley, First Five of Alameda County, Child and Adult Care Food Program, tuition and generous funding from local foundations.