Workforce Training Programs Change Lives

What if students in math class who were interested in health care could do word problems about pints of blood? What if students who were interested in construction could solve math equations about different materials used in the building industry? This is one strategy NCLR’s Adult Education and Workforce Development team uses to help adults complete a high school equivalency degree so they have a chance at getting into a vocational training program that can lead to a job in the industry of their choice.

Men working on roofMath word problems tailored to students’ specific interests is just one way that NCLR’s Contextualized Adult Education program engages disconnected individuals who need a high school degree to qualify for the job of their choice. The program’s curriculum provides students with a framework that generates and sustains their interest in certain industries, according to Surabhi Jain, our Director of Adult Education and Workforce Development. She reports that students grasp concepts faster because they can relate to the content.

Together with our Los Angeles Affiliate Youth Policy Institute, we have seen increased student enrollment and retention with this curriculum. Additionally, students tend to complete the program in about seven months, compared to the 12–18 months for most GED programs.

NCLR’s Contextualized Adult Education program is one example of how our training programs address the needs and aspirations of Latino workers. Additional NCLR workforce programs include:

Adult ESL Education: We work to increase the capacity of our Affiliate organizations so they can offer English as a second language (ESL) classes for adults who want better-paying jobs or to prepare for citizenship requirements. English language skills are critical for workers to be able to participate in training that can lead to better, higher-wage jobs.

Worker ESL Education: We provide grants to organizations such as our Affiliate in Wisconsin, Vera Court Neighborhood Center, which has a workforce program that partners with employers to offer on-site English classes. The program has grown from two work sites initially to seven sites with 11 classes today, including factories, hotels, and manufacturing and packaging plants. Employers are enthusiastic in their support, with some giving staff time off to attend one or two classes per week, and some providing a bonus or gift card to workers who complete the program.

Bilingual Bank Teller Curriculum: With the generous support of Wells Fargo, NCLR runs a training program with seven Affiliates that prepares Latino millennials to become bilingual bank tellers. This program opens the door to a career in the financial sector for Latinos age 18–32 who complete an eight-week training course and offers help for students trying to secure job interviews at local banks. Just in its first year, the program had more than 200 students.

Our investment is changing lives and strengthening the workforce. We’re thrilled to hear from students such as Abril, a young mother hired by a public service credit union just one week after she completed our financial training program. Abril worked in her family’s bakery after graduating from high school but wanted to pursue full-time employment in a growing industry where she could use her bilingual skills. In the financial services training program, she honed her gift for sales, learned service recovery techniques, participated in a job shadow, and connected with employers eager to hire driven Latino millennials. Abril is delighted to start a career that will allow her to provide greater financial stability for her family.

This Labor Day, NCLR salutes the Latinos whose hard work and dedication to education are making a difference in their families’ lives and our nation’s economy.

NCLR Affiliates Meet in Philadelphia for 2014 Peer Exchange

This week, members of the NCLR Affiliate Network gathered in Philadelphia for the 2014 NCLR Affiliate Peer Exchange. For two days, Affiliates reconnected with others from around the country and re-discovered the array of skills to be found within our network of 300 community-based organizations.

This year, participants focused on how to grow and nurture a data-driven culture in their organizations. Case studies were presented and they heard from experts in the field, all in the name of growing the impact of Latino nonprofits.

The two-day meeting ended today. Below are some highlights from the event.

The Peer Exchange began with a tour of Philadelphia’s famed mural arts scene.The focus was on Latino mural arts.

Philadelphia Mural Tour #NCLRPX @NCLR @Congreso1977 A photo posted by @groman28 on

After the Mural Arts tour, it was time to get down to business.

After a long day of art and talk of data-driven culture, NCLRPX attendees ended with a community reception.

Vanguard Principal Alba Martinez and Comcast VP Maria Arias join #NCLRPX Community Reception.

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

¡Liderazgo Latino! Johnny Irizarry, Casa Latina @ Penn and Maria Gonzalez, President of HACE. #NCLRPX #Congreso1977 A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

#PHL #Latino Legacy: Pedro Ramos, Alba Martinez, Dr. Carmen Febo, and Romy Diaz. #NCLRPX #Congreso1977

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

Day two of the Peer Exchange began with a tour of North Philly neighborhoods.

Edwin Desamour of MIMIC helping #NCLRPX put community in perspective.

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

#NCLRPX tours the reality of Latino Philly…the beautiful murals, the amazing organizations…and the distress.

A photo posted by Congreso de Latinos Unidos (@congreso1977) on

After the neighborhood tour, attendees prepared for their meeting with some Harambe!

Great energy after the Harambe at #NCLRPX this morning! @congreso1977 A video posted by NCLR (@nclr) on

After a tour of Philadelphia Affiliate Congreso and the Pan American Academy Charter school, it was time to close the event.

We thank all of our great Affiliates who were able to join us in Philadelphia. To find out more about our Affiliate Network and the amazing work they do, visit the NCLR website.

NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: Five Questions for Congreso de Latinos Unidos

The Affiliate of the Year Award is made possible through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.

For this month’s Affiliate Spotlight, we travel to Philadelphia, home of our 2014 Affiliate of the Year, Congreso de Latinos Unidos. We caught up with them after the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference in July and asked them to answer five questions about who they are, what they do, and where they’re headed. Enjoy!

NCLR: What is the history and mission of Congreso? Who do you serve? What services do you provide?

Congreso: Our mission is to strengthen Latino communities through social, economic, educational, and health services; leadership development; and advocacy. Over the last five years we have served more than 56,000 unduplicated individuals. Sixty-five percent of our clients are Latino and 33% are Black. Our programs are diverse and include an associate’s degree program; afterschool programs reaching 800 students in grades K–12; GED classes and testing; a federally qualified health center; Pennsylvania’s first Latina domestic violence program; health promotion and wellness; financial literacy; housing counseling; social services; a K–8 dual language charter school; an HIV/AIDS program that conducts testing, provides prevention education, as well as medical case management and meals; and a partnership with the United Way to provide resources for the elderly.

NCLR: This year, Congreso was named NCLR’s Affiliate of the Year, a high honor from NCLR for exemplary work. What has receiving this award meant to the staff at Congreso? How will it shape how you do your work going forward?

Congreso: We are honored to receive the 2014 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award. As an NCLR Affiliate since 2000, we have turned to this impressive network of Latino providers countless times for partnership opportunities, best practices, and peer exchanges. As a Top Workplace in the Philadelphia Region, our staff’s overwhelming response to what keeps them at Congreso is their direct impact on the Latino community. To be recognized for this work by a national organization, and specifically among the nearly 300 Affiliates who are equally impacting the lives of Latinos throughout the nation, was a meaningful honor. Moving forward, this award emphasizes our commitment to working with partners from all over the country. Fulfilling our mission to strengthening Latino communities is not confined to geographical boundaries, and if we can do so elsewhere by helping smaller nonprofits build their infrastructure or measure outcomes, we are thrilled to begin with the NCLR Affiliate Network.

NCLR: What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing the community you serve? What do you think Congreso’s role is in helping to solve these problems?

Congreso: Residents of Congreso’s service area experience disproportionate rates of poverty compared to the rest of the city. Fifty-four percent of residents in zip code 19133 (where the majority of Congreso’s clients reside) are living in poverty. It also has the dubious distinction of having the lowest median household income ($14,586) in the city (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013). Our service area also shows other indicators of economic hardship, including one of the largest concentrations of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families recipients in Pennsylvania (PA Dept. of Public Welfare).

Since 2008, Congreso’s service area has also experienced a disproportionate fall in housing prices (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2011). Eastern North Philadelphia is encompassed in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District and in 2011, 99,000 (61%) of children under age 18 lived below 150% of the federal poverty line (Kids Count Census Data, 2000).

Reinforcing these indicators of economic hardship, Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which encompasses this area, reported the highest rate of food hardship (31.2%) in the state and is ranked fourth highest in the nation (the national rate is 18%) (Food Hardship—Data for the Nation, States, 100 MSAs, and Every Congressional District, 2011). We are in the 10th poorest congressional district in the United States, and the poorest in Pennsylvania (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).

In 37 years, Congreso has evolved to meet the diverse needs of this community. However, in addition to meeting their current needs, we use our client-centered Primary Client Model (PCM™) to build on the great capacity we see in this community to become self-sufficient, establish short and long-term goals, and provide a continuum of services that will help clients achieve them. Our strategies are both preventive and remedial. Faced with a 50–60% Latino dropout rate, for example, we founded an evidence-informed dropout prevention program at Edison High School, which only has a 38% high school graduation rate. Knowing that the barriers to graduation start long before 12th grade, we also founded a bilingual K–8 charter school to help solidify students’ educational aspirations before they reach high school. As our ability to influence their choices post eighth grade was affected by limited high-quality options, we are now pursuing the expansion of our charter to include a 9th–12th grade continuum.

NCLR: What major initiatives/campaigns are you gearing up for in the near future?

Congreso: Our 2015–2020 strategic vision includes:

  1. Expanding our K–8 charter school to include a high school. This includes launching a capital campaign to open the fourth building on our campus and developing the curriculum for a high-achieving charter high school.
  2. Extending our educational continuum to include early childhood education and Head Start.
  3. Growing our data consulting work, which currently serves nonprofits throughout the country.
  4. Continuing to expand our services outside of Philadelphia County. This past year, for the first time in its history, Congreso is providing direct services outside of Philadelphia. (our clients come from throughout the region, but this is the first time we are delivering services elsewhere).

NCLR: Where would you like to see Congreso go in the next 10 years?

Congreso: In 10 years, we hope to continue to strengthen Latino communities by expanding our programs, services, and thought leadership throughout the nation while growing our impact on the progress of Latino Philadelphia. In 37 years, we have developed a significant level of expertise in specific areas, and we want to help minimize the learning curve for smaller nonprofits in areas where Latinos are just now arriving and growing. There are many areas around the nation whose infrastructure is ill-prepared to deal with an influx of Spanish-speaking populations or who lack strong case management and outcomes measurement models. We are leaders in these areas, and want to be a resource for the ultimate benefit of Latino communities everywhere.

 

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education, and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit the Ford Motor Company Fund website.

This Week in Immigration Reform – Week Ending July 15

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Week Ending July 19

This week in immigration reform: a House committee prepares to hold a hearing on DREAMers, while President Obama reaffirms his commitment to a road to citizenship in immigration reform legislation; NCLR Affiliates continued contacting their members of Congress this week, urging members to step up and lead on comprehensive reform that includes a road to citizenship. NCLR staff kept the community informed on the latest in immigration reform, with staff quoted in stories by The Washington Post and VOXXI.

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My Children Cannot Be Separated from Their Father Any Longer

This Father’s Day we’re re-posting a popular blog from an advocate in Ohio, Elizabeth Perez, who wrote this back in April. Ms. Perez’ heartbreaking story about her husband’s separation from herself and her children is a compelling reason for why we are working so hard to reform our broken immigration system. We hope you have a wonderful Father’s Day and keep in mind those families who have an empty seat at the table this year. 

By Elizabeth Perez
Originally published April 9, 2013

Note:  Elizabeth Perez—Cleveland native, Marine veteran, and mother of two—shares how the deportation of her husband, Marcos, in 2010 has severely affected her children and herself.  Thank you to Elizabeth and HOLA of Ohio for this story.

“I have an understanding of rules and regulations; I am a veteran of almost ten years.  I was highly successful in the Marine Corps, and I made the hardest decision of my life when I decided not to reenlist.  I felt that the Marine Corps was not the best place or lifestyle for raising a family.  Family was and is the most important part of my life.

Elizabeth Perez and Marcos PerezI met my husband, Marcos, in a way one only thinks happens in the movies.  I fell in love, and I fell hard.  We had our first son, Pelé, in 2010.  To become a new mother and be with the love of my life was the happiest I had ever been.  When our son was four months old, I found out we were going to have another child.  I shared the great news with Marcos and then decided to take a nap with Pelé.  Little did I know that I would never see Marcos in our home again.  While I was napping, Marcos went to work.  He was pulled over for running a red light.  The police could not identify him and called Immigration Services.  After only one month, Marcos was back in México.

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