MCALLEN, Texas – Through the signing of a memorandum of understanding, Hidalgo County and South Texas College have agreed to jointly set up a Youth Leadership Academy in order to tackle poverty.
The Youth Leadership Academy will train future generations of policymakers about the complexities of poverty and how to mitigate its effects locally. It will be spearheaded by Amaí De La Fuente, a VISTA project director.
VISTA, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America, is a nationally recognized program that was the brainchild of President John F. Kennedy to address poverty in America.
Initial funding has been provided by a federal AmeriCorps grant. The grant will help fund the development of a VISTA program at STC. The program will research poverty in Hidalgo County and create a curriculum that will target area youth about the complexities of poverty and how the tools of government and nonprofits can be used to alleviate poverty.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and South Texas College President Ricardo J. Solis signed the MOU at a ceremony at STC’s Pecan Campus in McAllen on March 25.
In a news release, Hidalgo County said 30 percent of the county’s population is believed to be living at or below poverty levels. This compares with 14 percent for the State of Texas and 12 percent for the country.
This disparity in the rate of poverty prompted Judge Cortez to create the Prosperity Task Force, which is working on short- and long-term goals to alleviate poverty locally. The Task Force initiated the request for the federal AmeriCorps grant.
“Judge Cortez has said the poverty rate in the Rio Grande Valley is higher than our state average, meaning that many of the students we serve fall within these numbers, and it is our responsibility and due diligence to help alleviate this issue,” said Solis. “And this partnership is one more way that STC is helping to fight poverty.”
Here is a video recording Solis’ remarks at the MOU ceremony:
Editor’s Note: The above video story is the second in a three-part series on the announcement that a Youth Leadership Academy is being set up in Hidalgo County. Click here to watch Part One, which features the analysis of Judge Cortez.
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