Program makes positive impact on Las Milpas, UTPA study shows
Contact: Scott Maier, Senior Editor 381-3639
Posted: 09/15/2000
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The educational intervention programs provided by Su Casa de Esperanza have a positive effect on Las Milpas colonia residents and their families, according to a recent technical research report by The University of Texas-Pan American.

Located off U.S. Highway 281, five miles south of Pharr, Las Milpas is one of several South Texas colonias. These communities typically have substandard housing, inadequate plumbing, poor sewage disposal systems and no potable water.

The UTPA study documents and confirms the colonia's extreme poverty. For example, the annual household income is a third the state level, and 68 percent of residents have nine years or less public school education, compared to 17 percent statewide.

Still, the report notes Su Casa's educational programs are producing positive results, particularly among children. Current and former Su Casa participants also hold strong regard for the program in helping them and their families.

Indeed, adult participants show "an expressed commitment to family, higher employment rates for husbands, and a sense of purpose and satisfaction with their lives along with development of a closer, trusting relationship with God."

Dr. Vern Vincent
Children exhibited "higher self-esteem and greater acceptance of responsibility for their health."

However, the report also presents "some disappointments." Among them, incomes and educational levels for Su Casa women participants are lower than comparison groups, and former participants did not show a continued carry-over from their experiences.

"It make take considerable time, perhaps a generation, before some of the expected changes from Su Casa's educational intervention program are realized," states the report.

Consequently, additional studies examining different aspects of Su Casa are recommended. A testing and evaluation program also should be implemented to determine its effectiveness, with adjustments and changes made as needed.

"For the most part, nonprofit organizations like Su Casa do not have the resources and/or the ability to quantitatively assess the impact of their programs on the clients they serve," said Dr. Vern Vincent, College of Business Administration quantitative methods professor and Su Casa board of directors member. "Yet, research studies of this nature are essential if these intervention programs are to be successful and truly make a difference."

Started in 1981, Su Casa de Esperanza is a nonprofit family life program providing education to impoverished families. It offers a multi-phase educational service, including programs for early childhood development and parenting, children and youth enrichment, and women.

The UTPA study - which maintains individual and household confidentiality and provides only summary results - was performed by Vincent. Assistance was provided by Dr. Bobby Guinn, health and kinesiology professor, and COBA doctoral students Erika Mendez and Monica Garcia, along with other individuals, organizations and University administrators.