Video: Meet the VISTA director spearheading Hidalgo County/STC’s Youth Leadership Academy

MCALLEN, Texas – Amaí De La Fuente, a VISTA project director, is going to spearhead the building of a Youth Leadership Academy in association with Hidalgo County and South Texas College.  

De La Fuente was at the head table at a ceremony to celebrate the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between STC and Hidalgo County to develop the academy. The document was signed by Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez and STC president Ricardo J. Solis.

The Youth Leadership Academy will train future generations of policymakers about the complexities of poverty and how to mitigate its effects locally.

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.

In a view interview with the Rio Grande Guardian International News Service, De La Fuente explained how plans for the Youth Leadership Academy came about.

“I have been working with the prosperity Task Force in Hidalgo County for the past year and needed to find the right foundation for the leadership academy to be the successful outcome that it needs to be. And after much conversation and networking with everybody, it was very apparent to me that South Texas College had a lot of initiative in wanting to do more for the community in various ways,” De La Fuente said.

“Talking to Dr. Hubbard I saw that we had the very same intentions of wanting to bring prosperity in a different way, not just with human capital, but through education. And so, through our conversations, we got to decide that a leadership youth academy, being supported with the educational component of STC, was the right way to go.”

The “Dr. Hubbard” De La Fuente was referring to is Matthew Hubbard, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at STC.

Initial funding for the Youth Leadership Academy 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.

Around 30 percent of Hidalgo 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. It was this disparity that caused Judge Cortez to set up the Hidalgo County 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.

In her interview with the Guardian, De La Fuente said she hopes colonia groups such as La Unión del Pueblo Entero, Proyecto Azteca, and ARISE Adelante will participate in the Hidalgo County Prosperity Task Force.

Here is the interview with De La Fuente:


Editor’s Note: The above video story is the third 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. Click here to watch Part Two, which features the analysis of President Solis.

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