Strong Start to the School Year!

The new school year has gotten off to a great start, and considering strong improvement in student achievement in northwest Denver middle schools, the year promises to get even better!

Mi Casa operates comprehensive afterschool programs for students who attend the three co-located schools on the Lake International School campus in northwest Denver. And we are delighted to report that according to the latest CSAP standardized test results, schools in northwest Denver, including Lake, are leading the charge in terms of improvements in student achievement.

Last year at this time, sixth-graders in northwest Denver posted CSAP scores of 39% proficient or better in reading, 34% in math and 26% in writing. This year, among sixth-graders in the new schools in northwest Denver – including the schools on the Lake campus – those scores rose to 45% in reading, 45% in math and 43% in writing. WOW!

The credit for these extremely impressive gains in student achievement is well-deserved by the hardworking teachers, administrators, students and families in northwest Denver, and we tip our hats to your incredible accomplishments!

But we would be remiss to not toot our own horn (just a bit) for the role Mi Casa’s wonderful Youth and Family Development programs played in supporting students’ success at Lake. Studies have indicated that while education is a critical pathway out of poverty for students, the school day is not sufficient to provide youth with tools they need to be successful. In short, a coordinated effort is required to address the holistic needs of youth and families, and an integral part of this work is providing quality afterschool programs – like those offered through Mi Casa – that offer enrichment during out-of-school time.

To show you what we mean, here are a few of the 2010-11 outcomes from Mi Casa’s youth and family programs:

  • 544 youth served in out-of-school time programs
  • Core participants (who attend programs 30+ days per year) increased to 156
  • 22 youth and their families received intensive case management services
  • 62% of case-managed youth increased their GPA and 100% advanced to the next grade
  • 17 youth successfully completed the rigorous Digital Connectors technology and career exploration program
  • Digital Connectors students performed 700 hours of community service to bridge the digital divide in our community

Among Mi Casa’s 156 core youth participants:

  • 60% increased their GPA over the course of the school year
  • 97% advanced to next grade level
  • 66% achieved 90% or better school-day attendance throughout the year
  • 78% decreased or maintained zero suspensions during the school year
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Free Help for Job Seekers at the Career Center

Posted by Martha Tesfalidet, Mi Casa Intern

As friends of Mi Casa, you have gotten a glimpse of Mi Casa’s many programs – including career training, business development, and programs for youth and families.

Another great program Mi Casa offers that you might not be familiar with is the Career Center, a free resource for job-seekers where they can work one-on-one with a career coach to improve their resume, prepare for interviews, and hunt for opportunities online. The Career Center is located at Mi Casa’s main location at 360 Acoma Street and is utilized by our many program participants, as well as their friends and family and other members of the community. In keeping with Mi Casa’s mission to advance the economic and educational success of families, we provide individualized assistance to anyone wanting help with their job search and application process.

After setting an appointment with one of Mi Casa’s Career Coaches, job-seekers are then asked what they would like to gain from the one-on-one sessions. Many participants opt for assistance with resume revision or creation and often utilize the Career Coach to help them apply for jobs during the meeting. While Mi Casa cannot guarantee job placements, we do all we can to ensure Career Center clients have all the tools they need to be successful during the job search.

An added plus is that all services provided in the Career Center are free of charge!

Call 303-573-1302 and find out how easy it is to get individualized help with your job search from Career Coaches at Mi Casa!

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Mi Casa Leaders Attend NCLR Conference, Hear Obama Speak

Mi Casa’s Executive Director and Program Directors spent the weekend in Washington, D.C. at the annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) conference, which featured President Obama as the keynote speaker yesterday.
Picture: Director of Career Development, Karen Stran (left), Director of Youth and Family Development, Karen Fox (center), and Executive Director, Christine Marquez-Hudson, show off the wristbands that served as their tickets to hear the President speak.

The NCLR Annual Conference represents the largest gathering of the nation’s most influential individuals, organizations, institutions, and companies working with the Hispanic community. The NCLR Annual Conference provides a forum for people in the business of social change to learn about ongoing and emerging issues in the Hispanic community, connect with community leaders, and generate partnerships with Hispanic community-based organizations.

Mi Casa leaders attended a full weekend of conferences including these seminars:

  • 2011 Legislative Update: How Will Congress Make a Difference in the Latino Community?
  • Finding Their Voice: Empowering Latino Youth through Service Learning
  • Parents Supporting Children: A Model for Engaging Latino Parents in Education
  • Bridge to a Better Tomorrow: Strengthening Workforce Integrated Training Programs
  • The Business of Developing the Future Workforce: A Model for Entrepreneurship, Cultural Diversity, and Increased Earning Potential

Additionally, Karen Fox was on a panel to offer insight during a seminar titled, Dollars and Sense: Sustaining Learning and Enrichment Beyond School Hours.

When President Obama took the stage, he addressed the issue of immigration and the growing concern within Latino communities that comprehensive reform has now fallen to the bottom of the President’s list of priorities. Yet, the audience was invigorated to hear this strong promise from Obama regarding his intention to reform the nation’s immigration system:

“We need a movement that bridges party lines, that unites business and labor and faith communities and law enforcement communities, and all who know that America cannot continue operating with a broken immigration system. And I will be there every step of the way.”

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17 Youth Complete Program to Bridge the Digital Divide

Mi Casa is proud to announce the graduation of the second class of Digital Connectors! These 17 youth ages 14 to 21 successfully completed this rigorous nine-month digital technology training program, and their achievement was marked by a celebration on June 4.

The Digital Connectors program engages youth to bridge the digital divide – the gap between those with access to digital technology and those without – by educating youth about digital technology, financial literacy, and leadership and encouraging them to share their knowledge with the community. During the 2010-11 school year, Mi Casa’s Digital Connectors performed nearly 300 hours of community service, which benefitted nearly 400 community members.

The graduation ceremony was another opportunity for the Digital Connectors to share the skills learned in the classroom with members of their own diverse communities. Over 60 people attended the event, which included a screening of the students’ final video projects. These videos showcase unsung heroes and leaders in the Connectors’ lives who were identified and interviewed to produce a final video testimonial project. Though the videos are as unique as each Connector, common themes include encouraging people to recognize their own inner hero and the joy of paying it forward.
The 17 students who graduated from the Digital Connectors program this month all earned a financial literacy certification from EverFi, as well as a Cisco Authorization diploma. Armed with these valuable certifications, Digital Connectors graduates are poised to capitalize on the leadership and career-readiness skills they gained in the program to excel in school or in employment.

In recognition of their hard work, all Digital Connectors graduates receive a new netbook computer, a flip camera, a USB drive, and a $250 stipend. The Digital Connectors program is made possible by a collaboration between Comcast Foundation, One Economy Corporation and Mi Casa Resource Center.

Congratulations to the Digital Connectors Class of 2011!

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School's Out for Summer!

The Mi Casa Neighborhood Center at Lake Middle School held its Summer Orientation BBQ today (June 2) for youth participants in Mi Casa’s summer programs and their families. More than 35 families attended and enjoyed a lunch of hamburgers and hotdogs and hot sunny (if a bit windy) weather.

Mi Casa has 100 youth participants registered for summer programs with a waitlist already started for other interested youth. Following a Denver Public Schools turnaround strategy, Lake Middle School is now home to three seperate but co-located schools – West Denver Prep, Sixth Grade Academy, and Seventh/Eighth Grade Academy. The Mi Casa Neighborhood Center is a fun, safe place to go afterschool for children who attend all three co-located schools. Despite the big changes at Lake, the afterschool hours have become a time for building connections and friendships among students from the different schools.

Now that the school year is over, summer programs at Mi Casa are set to begin on June 6! Today’s BBQ celebration was to welcome families and kick off the summer in fun fashion. Arturo Jimenez, the representative on the Denver Board of Education for Northwest Denver, stopped by to chat with families and grab a bite.

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Celebrating the Last Family Night of 2010-11 School Year

Posted by Katie Ehrlich, Mi Casa Intern

This Wednesday, April 27, the Mi Casa Neighborhood Center hosted its third and final Family Night of the school year. Mi Casa’s Family Night events are generously sponsored by Target.

The family and friends of Mi Casa’s afterschool program participants enjoyed bean-bag tossing games, face painting, balloon animals, and a dinner catered by Revolution Foods. Nearly 150 people attended, 43 of those were families of Mi Casa’s afterschool program participants. Everyone got to see the kids’ clubs “Foco y Movimiento” (Focus and Movement), “College 4 U”, “Paint the Town”, and “Mouse Squad” perform, and there were some smaller student talent showcases as well. Mi Casa also gave out 14 awards to the students and five door prizes, including two $50 Target gift cards.

When asked about her time at Family Night, one student named Fernanda said, “It was really fun and the Family Night was really respectful and nice because everyone participated in decorating it.”

Another former “Student of the Month” award-winner named AJ commented, “The best part was just to be with family and share a meal together.” Everything went smoothly, and everyone is looking forward to the next Family Night, which will take place next school year!

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Mi Casa and Friends Celebrate Solar Energy

Mi Casa Resource Center welcomed friends and partners today to celebrate the completion of Mi Casa’s 40.5kW solar energy array, which will offset 24% of the agency’s total energy use at our Acoma Street home.

After a program including remarks from Stacey Simms of the Governor’s Energy Office, Doug Wells of Renewable Energy Ventures, Michele Weingarden of Greenprint Denver, Christine Marquez-Hudson and Benita Duran of Mi Casa, and Geronimo Adams, a graduate of Mi Casa’s Green Construction and Energy training program, we headed to the roof.

It’s not easy to put a ribbon across 180 solar PV panels, but we tried! At first we hesitated to take the group up to the roof – the only way up and down are ladders, which aren’t to be combined with high heels and dress clothes on a normal day. But our group was not to be deterred.

And the ribbon was cut on a beautiful, sunny Colorado day, with our panels pumping out energy in the background!

THANK YOU to the funders who made this project possible:
Governor’s Energy Office
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
Doug Wells, Renewable Energy VenturesMi Casa would also like to thank:
Jon Sullivan, 303 Solar LLC
Mike Pardun, Renewable Technology Partners
City Electric
Geronimo Adams
Shawn Larson
Josh Simpson
Posted in Denver Green Jobs Initiative | Leave a comment

College Friday at Mi Casa Neighborhood Center

Posted by Naia Posniak, Program Assistant The Mi Casa Neighborhood Center celebrated College Friday Lake Middle School on Friday, April 8, with students and staff wearing their favorite college gear. Joel Orozco, a student at Metropolitan State College of Denver and President of MCSD’s chapter of Sigma Lambda Beta International Fraternity, spoke to the students in Mi Casa’s afterschool program about the barriers he faced as an immigrant student getting accepted to and especially paying for higher education. Joel stressed that plenty of resources are available for the students who seek them out and encouraged students to start thinking about and preparing for college. After Joel’s speech, some students were asked what they thought of his experiences: “It made me think he’s right,” one female student mused. “It’s never too early to think about college. I also thought it was cool that he was the first person in his family to go to college.” “I liked that he was from Chihuahua,” one young man observed. “That’s cool because that’s where I am from.”

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U.S. Census Shows Continued Growth Among U.S. Latinos

Let’s take a moment to step back and think about why Mi Casa Resource Center does what it does. According to the newly released 2010 U.S. Census data, the Hispanic population in the United States is now 50.5 million, or 16.3% of the total population.

In fact, Hispanics account for 56% of the nation’s total population growth in the last 10 years (2000-2010). Yet, the unemployment rate for Latinos is far higher than that of the population at large. Hovering around 13%, the Hispanic unemployment rate is far higher than the current rate in Colorado of 9.3%. In Denver, 27% of the Hispanic population lives below the poverty line, and only 6% of businesses in the state are Latino-owned.

Discouragingly, statistics clearly show that women of all walks of life in this country continue to earn an average of just 75% of what men take home. And in Colorado, fewer than 30% of businesses in the state are owned by women, meaning fewer women are harnessing the power of business ownership and self-employment.

Despite these sobering statistics, Mi Casa continues to work towards closing gaps in economic achievement and business ownership for Latinos, women, and any other member of our community who needs a business- or career-related boost. For 35 years Mi Casa has been a part of efforts to address these disparities, and we plan to work for at least 35 more years toward our mission of economic success for Latino and low-income families.

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Solar Energizes Mi Casa's Career Training Programs

The cash flow from the federal economic stimulus may be drying up. But the solar array being installed at Mi Casa – funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – will have an enduring positive impact in the form of hands-on experience and employment for jobless individuals and cost savings for the organization dedicated to training disadvantaged workers to participate in Colorado’s new energy economy.

The 40.5kW photovoltaic array at Mi Casa is the result of a close collaboration between public, private and nonprofit resources with the support of the Governor’s Energy Office.

“This project is a perfect example of public-private partnership where multiple goals are accomplished – carbon emissions and fossil fuel consumption are offset by electricity generated from renewable sources, private investors supply capital to jump start projects that would otherwise be delayed or never happen; and local jobs are supported for installation labor, engineering and design,” says Doug Wells, President of Renewable Energy Ventures, the private firm investing in Mi Casa’s solar array as part of a power purchase agreement.

One of the jobs supported by this project belongs to Geronimo Adams, a Mi Casa graduate who will be working to install the solar array. Geronimo (below, far left), a single father who shares custody of his six children, completed Mi Casa’s Green Construction & Energy training program in December and is looking for full-time work; he was laid off from his job as a commercial plumber in January 2010. Because Geronimo is currently receiving unemployment and the installation job at Mi Casa is temporary, he will work as an intern on the Mi Casa array to bank some experience and hopefully, leverage the experience into a full-time permanent position. “Mi Casa has provided me with a lot of support as I work to advance my situation,” Geronimo says. “I am honored to be a part of this project because ultimately it will create opportunities for other people who need training to make a career change.”

Christine Marquez-Hudson, CEO/Executive Director of Mi Casa, adds: “Mi Casa’s solar energy – as well as energy efficiency upgrades performed in anticipation of solar – offset increasing energy bills, and the cash savings will help sustain Mi Casa’s career training programs that assist workers with limited skills and education to launch promising careers in growth industries, including jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

“We believe that Mi Casa’s solar array, which will be visible from the street, will be a powerful symbol of our commitment to green jobs training and helping all Coloradans participate in the new energy economy,” says Marquez-Hudson.

Mi Casa’s 40.5kW solar array will produce an estimated 53,330 kWh per year, which will offset roughly 24% of Mi Casa’s total energy consumption. Mi Casa also invested in wide-ranging energy efficiency performance upgrades to maximize the savings from solar energy. Through Energy Outreach Colorado, Mi Casa was wrapped the hot water heater, installed a direct digital control system, replaced six old AC units with Energy Star units, insulated HVAC equipment, and replaced 112 light fixtures and ballasts with CFL bulbs and energy efficient ballasts at the agency’s headquarters at 360 Acoma Street.

The partnership with Renewable Energy Ventures, which allowed Mi Casa to take advantage of both the federal tax credit for renewable energy, as well as the Xcel Energy Solar Rewards Rebate, which was recently scaled back. Renewable Energy Ventures will own, operate and maintain the solar array; Mi Casa will pay a subsidized rate for the energy it produces.


Mi Casa’s Green Construction & Energy career training program is a nine-week course to help workers launch careers in the renewable energy, energy efficiency and green construction sectors. Core curriculum focuses on sustainable construction, safety, efficiency and performance upgrades, solar energy technology, as well as soft skills and work readiness training. Mi Casa’s approach to workforce development is based on best practices for putting disadvantaged individuals back to work. Mi Casa utilizes a sector-focused approach to career training, which relies heavily on the input of industry experts and employers, from the design and implementation of the curriculum through the placement of graduates in full-time jobs.

A power purchase agreement (PPA) is an operating agreement whereby a third party entity can own and operate a solar array located on a host property. In other words, the building owner provides the location and the system provider installs, owns and operates the array. The electricity generated by the array is then sold back to the property owner. This type of arrangement allows renewable energy through solar to be implemented with reduced or no capital expense on the part of the property owner. Capital costs are recovered over time with the electricity generated.

Posted in Denver Green Jobs Initiative | Leave a comment