Worcester State University’s Latino Education Institute’s recent successes mirror the success they are having with a target audience: Latino youth.
In the past month alone, LEI won a competitively-awarded $225,000, three-year grant from the Fred Harris Daniels Foundation, which will be used to support the Once Circle Program For Sexual Education and Healthy Choices. And, the statewide public policy think tank, MassINC, notified LEI’s director, Mary Jo Marion, that the Institute would be receiving one of five Gateway Cities Innovation awards at a ceremony at the DCU Center on November 17, 2015. Gov. Charlie Baker will keynote the event, and the LEI will be part of a panel presentation offered by the awardees, presenting their insights into what it takes to ensure that Gateway Cities thrive.
These recent awards build from LEI’s record of success with existing programs, such as the Teaching Corps, a Department of Higher Education Vision Grant-funded program providing paid internship opportunities for Latino and other under-represented students at Worcester State. The program aims to improve college graduation rates and readiness, and to increase the number of students considering careers in education. Eighty percent of Teaching Corps participants who are juniors return for their senior year.
Under the just-awarded One Circle grant, a collaboration will be engaged among the LEI, the Worcester Youth Center and The Community Builders Ince. At Plumley Village. The goal of this multi-year initiative is to develop a culturally responsive, gender-specific program to support healthy relationships and build positive futures for approximately 135 middle school girls (grades 7th and 8th) from the city of Worcester. In addition, 100 families will participate in annual family engagement activities designed to support family learning and discussion aligned with core program topics.
This grant award comes on the heels of a $200,000 grant that LEI and the Urban Studies Department about a year ago from the Boston Foundation and the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee to examine post-secondary outcomes for Latino males in five Massachusetts communities – Worcester, Lawrence, Boston, Springfield, and Holyoke. The report on that research is expected out by the end of 2015.
Why is LEI, which was founded in 2000, gaining so much attention now? According to Marion, it’s because the programming is bearing fruit and the LEI model is being replicated in other Massachusetts cities. “Over the past 15 years, we have developed a successful program model centered on family engagement and positive youth development. This model and success record is increasingly valued among Gateway Cities with rapidly changing demographics. As a part of Worcester State, we have support structures available and access to scholarships. This sets the LEI model apart and truly helps drive our success.”
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