Happening Now: SPC on Front Lines of U.S. War on Poverty

June 20, 2018

Public Information Officer


When a jobs program that helps San Antonian's transition out of poverty honors current students in the program who are making great progress in a special event next week, inspirational videos students are taping at St. Philip's College this week will be a first-ever part of that event.

The event is the Third Annual Transition Out of Poverty Celebration, TOP for short, and held for members of the Training for Job Success program operated by the City of San Antonio Family Assistance Division. While TOP takes place June 28 in the Claude Black Community Center where case workers also counsel students in the program, videos are taped this week---June 20-21 from 1:30-2:30---at such St. Philip's College locations as the Center for Health Professions, St. Philip's College Southwest Campus and the St. Philip's College Commercial Driver's License lab. Students preparing for employment as electricians, truck drivers, nurses, and air conditioning, radiology and physical therapy technicians are making the videos to spread messages of hope and confidence with their peers.

Minerva Hernandez is program manager for Training for Job Success at the City of San Antonio.

"We are an anti-poverty program and we are highlighting our fight against poverty during our TOP event, to encourage going to school and reducing the barriers on that journey. Some of the students and their case managers---eight-to-ten students and some of our seven managers who have students at the campuses---will be present for the videos, which are being shot on-campus after the students have focused on their labs for the day," said Hernandez.

"We have quite a few students, we pay for tuition and textbook assistance to help students transition out of poverty. They complete their programs on different tracks that are approximately two years, leading to degrees and certificates. We monitor them for 90 days through gainful employment, providing resources to do that. We see the differences in our students, from struggling and crisis, from originally making $5,000 per year to making $40,000 per year as program alumni. It's a long term case management program and we are a support program for the student through an understanding with Alamo Colleges, similar to Project QUEST," said Hernandez.

"Our program funding is through a grant that originates from the War on Poverty, a community services block grant that helps people transition out of poverty," Hernandez said of the funding that began in 1964 with then-President Lyndon B. Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of legislation in the U.S. War on Poverty. "Our case workers do a lot of outreach, to persons living and earning 125 percent or below the federal poverty guidelines. Not only do we help the individual, but we also help the extended family household. We can see them all fully thrive at the end of our two years with them. They are people who are ready for that next step," Hernandez said.

"During the TOP event, we will get a chance to hear stories of success from students enrolled in the program. For some of the students, our program was their only support. We become their support system and we wanted to celebrate them. As we started looking at that, we thought it would be nice to give others an opportunity to see how we continue to fight the fight. That's why we are making the videos," said Hernandez.

"We do a lot of outreach at the campus of St. Philip's College, so we know when they have orientations and we respond when they invite our staff to speak to their students during those sessions. We also recruit into the program from there, and as well as individuals who call in, but the main way they come in to the program is through our outreach initiatives. About 60 percent of our students are enrolled with St. Philip's College, and we are trying to recruit more for those professions studied there. We have someone enrolled in the Diesel and the aviation programs at St. Philip's College and two or more in HVAC, one of whom is a part-time boxer. We also have about 12 enrolled in the college's Commercial Driver's License program," Hernandez said.

As for the videos, it's much more than a moment of filmed fun. It's depicting real life, getting better jobs in real time in a community, by featuring students enrolled in a program where they are fighting for a better tomorrow through higher education---and jobs.

"We've not done this before, but if we're going to celebrate their success, it's important to capture them on video and put it all together as best we can to document our initiative and resolve to fight the war on poverty," said Hernandez.

For details on the program, contact Hernandez at 210-207-5917, minerva.hernandez@sanantonio.gov.