El Paso, Texas
2020 has redefined what success is for many communities. With so much uncertainty in everyone’s daily lives, one thing was certain; that the El Paso community needed to come together to ensure El Paso families had the support needed during these unprecedented times. Through our integrated planning efforts, we’re able to promote early school success initiatives to address the challenges exacerbated by the pandemic through partnerships with our local housing authority (HOME) and the El Paso Public Libraries.
Housing Opportunity Management Enterprises (HOME)
Housing Opportunity Management Enterprises (HOME), formerly known as the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, has been vested in improving the lives of its residents and their quality of life since 1938.In direct collaboration with the Philosophic Systems Institute (PSI) as a strategic partner, the Transformational Learning Community (TLC) project was created. PSI’s mission is to provide empowering transformational learning for a more just society.
The purpose of the Transformative Learning Community (TLC) Project was to create sustained, continuous opportunities for teen residents ages 12-18. These engagements were formulated to drive social and emotional development as well as creativity and ultimately broaden the innate strength of our community. This program was strategically piloted within two adjacent housing communities located in one of the most marginalized areas of the city known as the Alamito neighborhood.
El Paso Public Library (EPPL)
The El Paso Public Library (EPPL) had a difficult beginning in 2020. Our library system was just one of the many operations forced to pare back during the height of the pandemic. It was challenging for Library staff to see the community struggling during the pandemic. The closing of our libraries meant that there would be tremendous impacts on the communities that rely on us the most. Our patrons, most notably, our most vulnerable populations, consider us a lifeline to access the resources they need like the computer labs, equipment and technology.
At a time when schools transitioned to home-based learning and schools across the city were closed, EPPL was one of a handful of Libraries awarded the Digital Skills for Job Seekers Public Library Association/Microsoft grant. This award was given to EPPL for its excellent work through the Work PLACE (Public Literacy Access for Careers and Entrepreneurship) Program. Through strategic partnerships with the Housing Opportunity Management Enterprises (HOME), Workforce Solutions Borderplex, Borderland Rainbow Center, West Med Viral, and the Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, we were able to identify 100 low-income families that were adversely impacted by the pandemic. These community members each received one of the 100 computers provided by the grant.
This grant provided us the opportunity to team up with EveryoneOn to facilitate basic digital skills computer classes for public housing residents and to the general public. EveryoneOn is a national nonprofit organization working to eliminate the digital divide through partnerships with the technology industry, content creators, libraries, and other organizations to deliver free and affordable technology and training to all Americans. EveryoneOn unlocks opportunities by connecting families in low-income communities to affordable Internet, computers & digital skills training.
WorkPLACE @ EPPL
WorkPLACE is a entrepreneurial and career development program designed to support small businesses and those looking for work. WorkPLACE serves as a one-stop information and support center offering services to the public for free.
WorkPLACE staff have helped a wide array of patrons seeking to start businesses in the daycare services, food services, cleaning services, yard work and handyman services, and many other micro enterprises. In addition, they assist patrons to complete legal forms required by the city to register and start their business. They also assist potential new business owners to develop a business plan and to set up an accounting system for their business.
Through this entrepreneurial program, the library has offered numerous workshops, training opportunities, one-to-one sessions, outreach opportunities and webinars. The Work PLACE program provided access to dedicated workspaces, access to technology (computers, printers, fax services, scanning services), materials and reference services with dedicated staff nearby to provide individual assistance free of charge to the public. Free business courses and webinars were available to help to boost relevant skills.
YWCA El Paso del Norte Region
Closely aligned with each of these initiatives is YWCA El Paso del Norte Region and their educational programs, which include early childhood education, high quality childcare, and after school care. The Y’s educational programs offer a variety of academic enrichment activities that differ from the direct instruction that students receive during the school day. These activities are experiential and they empower students to learn about subjects in a hands-on way – to “learn by doing.” A typical day includes educational games, robotics, and STEM challenges such as designing parachutes, building planes, and exploring chemical reactions.
In alignment with our mission, students read books that feature culturally diverse characters, stories about different cultures, and nonfiction stories about women and People of Color making a difference in the world. By reading these books and participating in these activities, YWCA is ensuring that children in our programs are academically prepared for kindergarten and that they have the ability to understand, appreciate, and interact with people from all cultures and belief systems. These efforts culminated in early 2022 with a joint effort between YWCA, The El Paso Public Library, and the City of El Paso, which adds a “banned book” section to each El Paso Library.
The Talented People of El Paso