Breaking the cycle of poverty in El Barrio with education - Generocity Philly

Purpose

Jun. 15, 2020 10:48 am

Breaking the cycle of poverty in El Barrio with education

In order to lift students up, Congreso de Latinos Unidos and Penn State Abington try to address more than just college preparedness.

Penn State Abington professors teach English to high school students who have been selected to participate in a new dual enrollment program at Congreso in collaboration with PSU.

(Courtesy photo)

Congreso de Latinos Unidos, located in Fairhill, serves one of the poorest communities in the country’s poorest major city.

Close to 46 percent of Latinos living in the Fairhill and Kensington neighborhoods are below the poverty rate, according to a study from The Philadelphia Collaborative for Health Equity. Congreso’s own statistics show that 64 percent of their clients have a family income of less than $10,000 a year.

“For many of these students growing up in poverty, they just don’t have access to the resources they need,” said Rita Mejias, an assistant teaching professor at Penn State Abington.

Mejias teaches English to high school students who have been selected to participate in a new dual enrollment program at Congreso in collaboration with Penn State Abington. Students in the program graduate with college credits and a Penn State certificate in rehabilitation and human services.

“Some of these high schools in these neighborhoods are not giving them what they need to be successful in college,” said Mejias. “If you give them the resources, the guidance, the encouragement…that’s what they need because some of them come from homes that all they’ve seen is negativity.

Mejias is a North Philly native. She identifies herself as a “product of Congreso.” Her parents were grade school dropouts.

“They needed to work, needed to pay rent and bills,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons I relate to this program so well. I know what it’s like to be all on your own and have ambition.”

Congreso wants to move their clients into economic self-sufficiency. Get them on their feet, so they don’t have to rely on government assistance programs, said Carlos Cartagena, director of post-secondary services at Congreso.

“But even that is a stereotype,” said Cartagena. “The vast majority are working-class, blue-collar workers that own their homes and work hard. They have just not been offered a way to climb higher. Education can be that tool.”

Constantly overlooked in these situations, said Mejias, is the need to talk to someone who understands the reality that low-income students live every day.

“What I’ve done is open up my office hours for them to just talk to me,” she said. “Just talk. Every single one of them has dealt with issues that a thirty-year-old might have gone through already. These kids were only 16 or 17-years-old. Not only should we be preparing them for college, but giving them the opportunity to have someone to talk to because they are worried or afraid.”

From our Partners

Poverty and lack of education all tie into the greater picture of community health, said Cartagena.

“All these systemic things that aren’t common in a middle-class or upper-middle-class neighborhood, they’re just not addressed at the public schools,” he said. “Especially if you are a person of color. And this community gets a bad rap. There are good people here that come from good homes, but those stereotypes and stigmas keep them down.”

-30-
LEAVE A COMMENT

From our Partners

How the pandemic response has failed young people: Student debt

Kensington residents ask: ‘Why would you think this is acceptable for us?’

Kids wrestled with depression, eating disorders and other mental health issues amid the pandemic, research finds

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

On June 17, First Person Arts and EMOC launch a virtual event they hope will shatter misperceptions of men of color

Philadelphia , PA

KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools

External Affairs Manager

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

City Year Philadelphia

Corporate Partnerships Manager

Apply Now
Philadelphia

Rock to the Future

Music and Creative Instructors

Apply Now

In ‘Faces of Courage’ the collaboration of artist and nonprofit becomes more than documentation

NKCDC’s Nourish brings meal kit delivery service to a community that otherwise may not have access to it

3 important outcomes for young people who are taught critical race theory

SPONSORED

Generocity Philly

Good food + good people + good cause = good times

401 N 3rd Street Philadelphia, PA 19123

Gift of Life Donor Program

Digital Media Specialist

Apply Now
Fairhill - Hartranft Neighborhood (North Philadelphia)

The Village of Arts and Humanities

Program Manager, Youth and Young Adult Programs

Apply Now
Fairhill - Hartranft Neighborhood (North Philadelphia)

The Village of Arts and Humanities

Senior Project Manager: Byrne Criminal Justice Project, Advancing Equity Through Public Safety

Apply Now

Sign-up for daily news updates from Generocity