Northeast Times

Kensington's Congreso receives grant to help Hispanic students

Though the land­scape of the Philly school sys­tem may look bleak at times, some loc­al pro­grams, like Kengsing­ton's Con­greso de Lati­nos Unidos, still work hard on be­half of stu­dents.

With the Phil­adelphia Pub­lic School Dis­trict strug­gling with fund­ing cuts and pending school clos­ures, loc­al pro­grams are still work­ing to sup­port the city’s stu­dents.

Kens­ing­ton’s Con­greso de Lati­nos Unidos, a ser­vice or­gan­iz­a­tion that works to sup­port the area’s His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion, re­ceived a $10,000 grant from the Cit­izen’s Bank Found­a­tion earli­er this month for one such pro­gram.

The funds will sup­port Con­greso’s Learn and Work pro­gram, a three-year-old lec­ture pro­gram that works to teach stu­dents about the real­it­ies of life out­side of school and how to over­come obstacles to suc­ceed in so­ci­ety.

“This is for stu­dents that are at that crit­ic­al junc­ture,” said Lisa Varon, vice pres­id­ent of Con­greso’s edu­ca­tion and work­force ser­vices. She spoke dur­ing a ses­sion of the Learn and Work pro­gram held Wed­nes­day, May 25 at Edis­on High School at 151 W. Luzerne St.

Varon said the pro­gram works with both stu­dents at Edis­on and those in­volved in Con­greso’s E3 Cen­ter, which in­cludes stu­dents who might have dropped out of school and are work­ing to ob­tain their GED.

Varon said that Learn and Work, by bring­ing in pro­fes­sion­als from all walks of life to de­tail their work ex­per­i­ence with stu­dents, helps show that every­one runs in­to twists and turns along the road of life, but they can be over­come.

For ex­ample, dur­ing last week’s pro­gram, two rep­res­ent­at­ives from Wells Fargo – Luz Iv­ette Lopez, a store man­ager of­ficer, and Radhames Ab­reu, a per­son­al banker – dis­cussed the wind­ing roads that led them to where they are today.

Ab­reu told the class about how he was raised by his grand­par­ents in Pu­erto Rico after his par­ents sep­ar­ated. In school, he struggled with an­ger is­sues and ad­mit­ted that he wasn’t a per­fect stu­dent.

But he learned to speak Eng­lish, and after high school, he got a job as an Eng­lish teach­er. Later, after an­oth­er busi­ness op­por­tun­ity fell through, he found a job at the bank.

Lopez’s life story also had its obstacles, and her ca­reer suc­cess deeply im­pacted stu­dents.

In fact, dur­ing the class, one stu­dent, Mar­ina Ruiz, 18, broke in­to tears and hugged Lopez in the middle of the room.

“I dropped out of school too,” said Ruiz. “It’s hard, you know? I’m do­ing it on my own. But this is in­spir­ing. If she can do it, I can do it.”

Along with dis­cuss­ing their ca­reer paths, the Wells Fargo rep­res­ent­at­ives also have stu­dents tips on how to save for the fu­ture and to keep out of cred­it debt by man­aging funds.

At the end of last week’s pro­gram, Ra­fael Ar­is­mendi, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment dir­ect­or of chil­dren and youth ser­vices at Con­greso, told stu­dents that they have the po­ten­tial to be what they want, as long as they are will­ing to put in the same ef­fort the speak­ers had.

“Life hap­pens, things hap­pen, but you have to get through the struggle if you’re go­ing to get there,” said Ar­is­mendi. “It shows that no mat­ter your sta­tion in life, you can do it, if you don’t give up.”

For more in­form­a­tion on Con­greso de Lati­nos Unidos or the pro­grams they of­fer, vis­it the group’s web­site at www.con­greso.net.

Star Staff Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be con­tac­ted at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com.

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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