VIDA Receives $150,000 Grant from the Greater Texas Foundation
WESLACO— The Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement’s (VIDA) Executive Director, Myra Caridad García, announced today, July 19, that Greater Texas Foundation (GTF) awarded VIDA a $150,000 grant. The grant places an emphasis on postsecondary education (preparation, access, completion and employment) and will provide funding for 20 low-income residents of the Rio Grande Valley to receiving training and education in demand occupations.
VIDA attracted the attention of GTF with its high graduation rates for people who once lived below the poverty line. “In recent years, the foundation has refocused its efforts on the work needed to improve low college graduation rates and college access for disadvantaged individuals,” said Dr. Wynn Rosser, Executive Director of GTF. “Nearly all of our funding goes to assist colleges, but we became very interested in VIDA’s work after learning that 91 percent of VIDA’s participants served last year had either graduated or were still in school. When you consider 80 percent of these individuals were on public assistance or unemployed and 73 percent were between the ages of 25 and 50, keeping them in school full time through completion is an impressive feat. Greater Texas Foundation is excited to help grow the program and learn from this model.”
Mrs. García was thrilled VIDA received the much needed funding. “This funding will help us grow a skilled workforce which will have a direct and far reaching effect on the Valley’s ability to recruit new industry and expand existing businesses” she stated. VIDA’s initial request was for a one-year grant. After an onsite visit, a conversation with VIDA alumni Carmen Gurrola, and much discussion about VIDA’s College Prep Academy, GTF decided there was much more to gain and learn from funding a cohort of 20 people for three years.
Carmen Gurrola is a good example of how the VIDA model works. At the meeting with GTF, Ms. Gurrola said, “When I first learned about VIDA I was a single mother of a six-month baby and on public assistance. We lived with my mom and my mentally challenged brother. I didn’t even have a high school diploma, but I knew that if our lives were going to get any better I needed to get an education.” Gurrola sought assistance from VIDA to earn her GED. Despite English not being her primary language, through perseverance and support from VIDA’s career counselors, she earned her GED, successfully completed the College Prep Academy and earned an Associate’s Degree in Education. She then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Gurrola is currently working on her master’s degree and plans on earning her doctorate in mathematics.
VIDA’s innovative program combines financial assistance with wrap around support services for the Valley’s underserved, adults who are motivated to attend college. With the funds received from the GTF, VIDA participants will receive needs-based financial support including tuition, fees, books, childcare, transportation and emergency assistance.
“At the heart of VIDA services and integral to overall program success is VIDA’s strategy of managing risk through relationships through our Career Counselors,” says Mrs. García. Career Counselors meet weekly with participants in peer groups or individually. “Our Counselors are tasked with reducing attrition by ensuring participants are motivated, employable, dedicated to finishing a long-term training program, and empowered to take control of the difficulties in their lives.”
Greater Texas Foundation was also impressed by VIDA’s ability to prepare people for college. Before entering college-level courses, prospective students must pass one of Texas’ required college entrance exams—the Texas Higher Education Assessment (THEA) or the Accuplacer. These exams are significant barriers for Texas community college students. Statewide in 2007 for example, only 25 percent of those who took the college entrance exam passed the math section on the first attempt and enrolled in college-level classes. Community colleges enroll those who cannot pass the exam in remedial classes, but this model is not working well. In the same 2007 group that required remediation statewide, only 14.4 percent passed the math section of the exam one year later.
GTF, established in 1980, has a long history as a non-profit organization serving the citizens of Texas. From 2002 through 2010, the foundation awarded 411 grants totaling $29.8 Million. High priority areas included scholarships for underserved students and initiatives which resulted in improved teaching and/or improved curricula for students, with a particular focus on math and science. GTF supports efforts to ensure all Texas students are prepared for, have access to, persist in, and complete post-secondary education. They pursue their mission by forming partnerships, supporting research, sharing knowledge, and making grants, and putting particular focus on helping underserved and disadvantaged populations. For additional information, visit greatertexasfoundation.org.
VIDA is a community based non-profit 501 (c) (3) agency. Created in 1995, VIDA was the result of a local effort led by community leaders of Valley Interfaith and a strong cross section of business leaders. The impetus was the need to empower the underserved residents of the Region with the tools – education and training – to become self sufficient and in tandem, fuel the growth of the existing employers and increase the recruitment of new investment to the area by developing a highly skilled workforce.
For more information about VIDA, call 1(800) 478-1770 or visit our website at www.vidacareers.org