NCLR Affiliate Spotlight: Five Questions for Congreso de Latinos Unidos
The Affiliate of the Year Award is made possible through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.
For this month’s Affiliate Spotlight, we travel to Philadelphia, home of our 2014 Affiliate of the Year, Congreso de Latinos Unidos. We caught up with them after the 2014 NCLR Annual Conference in July and asked them to answer five questions about who they are, what they do, and where they’re headed. Enjoy!
NCLR: What is the history and mission of Congreso? Who do you serve? What services do you provide?
Congreso: Our mission is to strengthen Latino communities through social, economic, educational, and health services; leadership development; and advocacy. Over the last five years we have served more than 56,000 unduplicated individuals. Sixty-five percent of our clients are Latino and 33% are Black. Our programs are diverse and include an associate’s degree program; afterschool programs reaching 800 students in grades K–12; GED classes and testing; a federally qualified health center; Pennsylvania’s first Latina domestic violence program; health promotion and wellness; financial literacy; housing counseling; social services; a K–8 dual language charter school; an HIV/AIDS program that conducts testing, provides prevention education, as well as medical case management and meals; and a partnership with the United Way to provide resources for the elderly.
NCLR: This year, Congreso was named NCLR’s Affiliate of the Year, a high honor from NCLR for exemplary work. What has receiving this award meant to the staff at Congreso? How will it shape how you do your work going forward?
Congreso: We are honored to receive the 2014 NCLR Affiliate of the Year Award. As an NCLR Affiliate since 2000, we have turned to this impressive network of Latino providers countless times for partnership opportunities, best practices, and peer exchanges. As a Top Workplace in the Philadelphia Region, our staff’s overwhelming response to what keeps them at Congreso is their direct impact on the Latino community. To be recognized for this work by a national organization, and specifically among the nearly 300 Affiliates who are equally impacting the lives of Latinos throughout the nation, was a meaningful honor. Moving forward, this award emphasizes our commitment to working with partners from all over the country. Fulfilling our mission to strengthening Latino communities is not confined to geographical boundaries, and if we can do so elsewhere by helping smaller nonprofits build their infrastructure or measure outcomes, we are thrilled to begin with the NCLR Affiliate Network.
NCLR: What do you think are some of the most pressing issues facing the community you serve? What do you think Congreso’s role is in helping to solve these problems?
Congreso: Residents of Congreso’s service area experience disproportionate rates of poverty compared to the rest of the city. Fifty-four percent of residents in zip code 19133 (where the majority of Congreso’s clients reside) are living in poverty. It also has the dubious distinction of having the lowest median household income ($14,586) in the city (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2013). Our service area also shows other indicators of economic hardship, including one of the largest concentrations of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families recipients in Pennsylvania (PA Dept. of Public Welfare).
Since 2008, Congreso’s service area has also experienced a disproportionate fall in housing prices (The Pew Charitable Trust, 2011). Eastern North Philadelphia is encompassed in Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District and in 2011, 99,000 (61%) of children under age 18 lived below 150% of the federal poverty line (Kids Count Census Data, 2000).
Reinforcing these indicators of economic hardship, Pennsylvania’s First Congressional District, which encompasses this area, reported the highest rate of food hardship (31.2%) in the state and is ranked fourth highest in the nation (the national rate is 18%) (Food Hardship—Data for the Nation, States, 100 MSAs, and Every Congressional District, 2011). We are in the 10th poorest congressional district in the United States, and the poorest in Pennsylvania (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009).
In 37 years, Congreso has evolved to meet the diverse needs of this community. However, in addition to meeting their current needs, we use our client-centered Primary Client Model (PCM™) to build on the great capacity we see in this community to become self-sufficient, establish short and long-term goals, and provide a continuum of services that will help clients achieve them. Our strategies are both preventive and remedial. Faced with a 50–60% Latino dropout rate, for example, we founded an evidence-informed dropout prevention program at Edison High School, which only has a 38% high school graduation rate. Knowing that the barriers to graduation start long before 12th grade, we also founded a bilingual K–8 charter school to help solidify students’ educational aspirations before they reach high school. As our ability to influence their choices post eighth grade was affected by limited high-quality options, we are now pursuing the expansion of our charter to include a 9th–12th grade continuum.
NCLR: What major initiatives/campaigns are you gearing up for in the near future?
Congreso: Our 2015–2020 strategic vision includes:
- Expanding our K–8 charter school to include a high school. This includes launching a capital campaign to open the fourth building on our campus and developing the curriculum for a high-achieving charter high school.
- Extending our educational continuum to include early childhood education and Head Start.
- Growing our data consulting work, which currently serves nonprofits throughout the country.
- Continuing to expand our services outside of Philadelphia County. This past year, for the first time in its history, Congreso is providing direct services outside of Philadelphia. (our clients come from throughout the region, but this is the first time we are delivering services elsewhere).
NCLR: Where would you like to see Congreso go in the next 10 years?
Congreso: In 10 years, we hope to continue to strengthen Latino communities by expanding our programs, services, and thought leadership throughout the nation while growing our impact on the progress of Latino Philadelphia. In 37 years, we have developed a significant level of expertise in specific areas, and we want to help minimize the learning curve for smaller nonprofits in areas where Latinos are just now arriving and growing. There are many areas around the nation whose infrastructure is ill-prepared to deal with an influx of Spanish-speaking populations or who lack strong case management and outcomes measurement models. We are leaders in these areas, and want to be a resource for the ultimate benefit of Latino communities everywhere.
About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services
Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education, and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit the Ford Motor Company Fund website.