Latino Academy of Workforce Development provides training, community to hundreds
By Mario Koran | Sun, 10/07/2012 - 5:06pm
Saturday mornings, Baltazar De Anda-Santana greets students at the door of the Bridge Lake Point Waunona Neighborhood Center, where the Latino Academy of Workforce Development is housed.
De Anda-Santana said that any given week, roughly 200 students come through the doors to take computer and ESL classes, participate in GED or job skill training, or to socialize.
“We have computer classes. We have all this training. And when people think about training for the Latino Community I want them to think about us,” he said. “My biggest goal as the director of the program is for us to try to find our real niche for us.”
De Anda-Santana, who has a background in the ministry, joined the center as a computer instructor in 2009 -- the same year the Vera Court and the Bridge Lake Point Waunona neighborhood centers merged to create the Latino Family Resource Center.
"When I came to the community center, nobody gave me a job description," he said. “The only thing they told me was that I had to be there for the community."
"I was going to be a catholic priest down in Mexico, but I saw that I was able to be part of a community -- that I could be of service here -- and I decided that we were going to help people (take) care of their computers.”
The Family Resource Center grew into the Latino Academy of Workforce Development (LAWD) , and now the program offers business development workshops, job readiness seminars, and job skills training. Computer classes are taught in English and Spanish, so the students have a chance to practice language skills as they learn a Microsoft Office program. By helping parents with their language and computer skills the academy addresses the achievement gap, said De Anda-Santana. Since last year, LAWD has been offering training to parents.
According Madison Neighborhood Indicators, 15 percent of the 467 families that live in the Bridge Lake Point Waunona neighborhood, lived at or below the poverty-line in 2011. But the Latino Academy serves more than those who live in the immediate vicinity. Only 20 percent of program participants live in the neighborhood, said De Anda-Santana. The rest come from other Madison neighborhoods and as far away as Sparta.
Within the last few weeks LAWD began a new partnership with the Madison Metropolitan School District and Madison College. The three organizations now collaborate to offer GED training to Spanish-speaking adults in the community. De Anda-Santana said a recent survey showed that of the 200 students who come to the program on any given week, only 188 have a GED.
While Santana describes the Latino Academy as sometimes "chaotic," he explained that many people who come to the program come straight from a 12-hour shift elsewhere. “These people work very, very hard,” he said.
For a glimpse inside the Latino Academy of Workforce Development and a few words from De Anda-Santana, explore the slideshow below.
Visit reporter Mario Koran's blog for another perspective on the story.
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