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Increasing Access to Opportunities Unlocks Potential to Reach New Heights

EMERGE Community Development

EMERGE helps youth and young adults who are facing significant obstacles to finding work, housing, and financial stability. With a special expertise in serving ex-offenders, at-risk youth, and homeless parents and their families, EMERGE’s staff and AmeriCorps service members serve more than 3,000 low-income people every year.

One example of a life that has been touched by EMERGE is Lydia, a young woman who had lost her job and then her home. She was pregnant and concerned about her baby’s future prospects. She applied for public assistance, but she knew that she needed to gain marketable skills. As she started looking for new opportunities, she learned about a pilot program at EMERGE.

“I think the program was just amazing. I’m a new person today.” —Lydia

The program was designed to explore new ways to work with MFIP (Minnesota Family Investment Program) recipients. Through this program, EMERGE encourages people to think of opportunities beyond a low-wage job. Each participant pursues training for a career pathway with higher earning potential. EMERGE helps to remove common systemic barriers, such as the lack of affordable housing or child care, so participants can focus on school. Once EMERGE helped Lydia secure stable housing, she was ready to dive into a five-month Community Health Worker program.

Getting started was not without challenges. It was difficult to juggle the workload of classes along with the demands of parenthood. “I just passed my GED by the skin of my nose, so it was a challenge to get through this.” With support and encouragement from her coach, Lydia not only completed the training; she excelled at it, receiving all A’s and B’s in her classes.

Over the past year, EMERGE has shown that when participants have access to training funds, a career coach, and assistance to overcome barriers like housing and transportation, they can pursue new goals and reach new heights. For those who have completed training and are employed, the average wage is nearly $13 an hour, well above the projected project goal. Lydia is glad she seized the opportunity. “I think the program was just amazing. I’m a new person today.”

Upon completing her certificate, Lydia found a job with EMERGE partner Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ). She’ll be working to build relationships with North Minneapolis families, to help them find ways to become more successful, too. Along with receiving a welcome paycheck, she’s poised to become a powerful advocate in the community. Lydia is ready. “And I know I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the program.”

Topic: Region & Communities

January 2017