(February 25, 2021) La Casa de Don Pedro has long advocated for the economic empowerment of Black and Latinx women. Supporting women not only improves their own personal development, but directly assists families and communities to economically advance. Yet, inequality and an economic system built on racism and sexism has left far too many Black and Latinx women marginalized from economic opportunity.
We established The Hispanic Women’s Resource Center in that vein over 15 years ago. With funding from the Latino Action Network Foundation (which receives funds from the NJ Department of Children & Families, Division on Women), as well as funds leveraged from other private and public sources, the Center offers High School Equivalency (HSE) Preparation in Spanish, English as a Second Language, tutoring, job training, scholarships and other resources to Latinx women living Greater Newark.
These programs serve as an opportunity lifeline. In fact, HSE classes in Spanish are hard to find. La Casa is the only organization in Essex County that offers free classes in Spanish. This semester we quickly filled enrollment and had to cap it at 35 students. La Casa is also one of the few HSE Spanish testing centers in the region, helping eliminate yet another barrier.
Students in our programs not only benefit from daily lessons, support, and access to testing, but get a leg up with financial assistance. This month HSE students received calculators, noise-cancelling headphones, exam preparation books, and a number of other school supplies that donors from La Casa’s #ProjectBackpack School Drive provided.
Career Counselor Sylvia Valenzuela-Borges, who coordinates the program, says as long as the women pass their TASC-readiness exams, La Casa also pays for their final TASC exam fees, which helps ease financial burden and allows the women to focus on their studies.
But the support doesn’t end there. Women can get English tutoring help from volunteers from Barclays, and once the women obtain their degree, the Center connects them to higher education and career training programs. For instance, Adriana Alvarez and Angeli Coronado, whose stories we shared in this article, benefited from Home Health Aid Training in 2018.
When we create opportunities to advance educational and economic outcomes of Latinx and Black women, we are helping to combat structural racism and sexism in the economy.
The work must continue. New Jersey ranks dead last in pay equity for Latinx women living in America, according to a Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations study. And when the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued job numbers on Jan. 8, 2021, it demonstrated yet again that job loss continues among women. In fact, as a group, only women lost jobs. And, when digging even deeper into the data, it wasn’t all women who lost jobs, it was Black and Latinx women. In fact, as a group, White women gained employment.
The challenges are overwhelming but La Casa de Don Pedro will continue to do our part to provide the women in our community with the tools, opportunity, and support to help push the needle forward.
If you know someone who can benefit from the Hispanic Women’s Resource Center, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.