A year and a half after starting operations at the Ernesto Ramos Antonini housing project, integrated services project Vimenti by Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico presented results from its three program areas: educational, social and economic development.
In addition, the organization presented challenges and lessons learned in a study financed by the Walton Family Foundation of three main areas: student support, operations and finances, and personnel professional development.
“These results represent the challenges that confirm the sense of urgency that we have as citizens to become part pf the solution, that education becomes the priority to eradicate child poverty in Puerto Rico,” said Eduardo Carrera-Morales, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico.
“Each day, our responsibility becomes larger. The development of this evidence-based project will allow us to measure the impact in children and the economic movability of their families over the next few years,” he said.
Vimenti School, the first public charter school in Puerto Rico, graduated 57 kinder and first grade students and 133 family members last year. The project also served 336 active participants between the ages of 5 and 21 in its after school program and 847 adults who participated in the project’s economic development programs and diverse community impact programs.
In addition, the kindergarten students increased their proficiency by 18% while the first-grade students increased theirs by 35%.
As part of the services the Vimenti project offers, it served 45,433 food portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner to all students including dinner for After School program participants.
Presented in three documents and authored by Robin Lake, director of the Center on Reinventing Public Education and Silene Vargas-Díaz, researcher at the Strategic Planning and Evaluation Office of the College of Education at the University of Puerto Rico’s Rio Piedras campus, the study shows the learnings and challenges that the project faced in change management, the integration of physical and mental health services with academic performance, and the focus on continuous improvement and development opportunities for Vimenti’s personnel, among others.
Vimenti focuses on the development of an evidence-based model to help mitigate the effects of child poverty in Puerto Rican families using a two-generation approach to improve the economic development of families and their children.
The employability and careers program for youths and adults has graduated 108 participants, out of which 58% has a job and 80% has held on to their jobs for three months or longer. Out of these, 57% are parents of Vimenti participants.
This initiative is carried out through a partnership with global employability program, “Generation.”
Work skills part of the program
Vimenti’s employability program provides participants with work skills to prepare them for jobs in the hospitality and customer service industries. It offers five-week workshops, for a total of 125 contact hours.
In addition to the workshops, the program offers mentorship to help participants find jobs and currently has collaboration partnerships with 10 employers to support the candidates’ recruitment process.
“Our vision is to create an evidence-based model that provides skills and experiences to our children and their families so they can achieve financial security,” said Bárbara Rivera-Batista, director of Vimenti.
“It’s possible to break through the generational cycle of child poverty if we work with children and their families at the same time. That is why at Vimenti, we focus on impacting two generations: parents and their children,” she said.
All families enrolled at Vimenti are assigned to a caseworker so they can receive support in the development and compliance of action plans that are focused on achieving their educational, financial and family goals that will grant them financial movability.
Last year, 100% of the families completed their action plans. The percentage of unemployed families was reduced from 46% to 16%. Likewise, 36% of families that were identified as vulnerable in economic and social aspects went down to 9%.