The University of Texas-Pan American is among 10 Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the United States recently awarded funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help revitalize neighborhoods, promote affordable housing and stimulate economic development in their communities.
UTPA will receive $599,990 of the $6 million in awards that were announced by HUD Secretary Steve Preston on Sept. 9. The funds, provided through HUD's Hispanic-Serving Institutions Assisting Communities (HSIAC) Program, will go toward a three-year Mobile Community Development Initiative to provide information, resources and training on a variety of community needs to the residents of the Rio Grande Valley's Delta Region.
Utilizing UTPA faculty, staff, graduate students and a mobile unit, the project will provide Delta Region residents microenterprise training; youth financial literacy education; fair housing lending program education; diabetes, obesity and nutrition education; and job resources education - all areas identified through research as the most pressing needs of the that region, which encompasses the communities of Elsa, Edcouch, La Villa, and Monte Alto.
"Hispanic-Serving Institutions not only play a vital role as places of higher learning, they can be powerful instruments of community development," Preston said. "I am proud of the partnership HUD has with these colleges and universities so that, together, we can help revitalize neighborhoods, offer needed public services and stimulate community development around their campuses."
A key component of the project - a 38-foot, air-conditioned, fifth-wheel mobile unit, equipped with seating and laptop computers with Internet access for up to 15 persons - will be driven to low income neighborhoods in the Delta Region. Staffed by a trainer and community development specialists, the unit will provide convenient access for residents to information, resources and training that will stabilize and contribute to sustainable development of the region's communities. Information and training will also be provided through an office at the Delta Region Revitalization Corporation's Mercado Delta, a public/farmers market to be opened in Edcouch in November 2008.
"Because many Delta Region residents do not have affordable access to transportation, there is a need to take the information, resources, and training out to residents in these communities," said Michael Uhrbrock, associate director of economic development at UTPA's Office of Center Operations and Community Service, who will direct the project.
The project will also involve participation by UTPA's Department of Social Work faculty and graduate students. Nine students from the department's master's degree program will serve as community development specialists. Dr. Hector Díaz, social work department chair, will serve as the project evaluator and Dr. Sharon Pittman, social work professor, will serve as the graduate student adviser.
"The Department of Social Work is pleased to be part of this community project that will give our graduate students an opportunity to get out and practice what they are learning in the classroom and gain some valuable real world experience," Díaz said.
UTPA and its business development division will work closely with its partners which include The Delta Region Revitalization Corporation, ACCION Texas, and the Texas/Mexico Border Coalition, to coordinate services in the project's target area.
For an institution to qualify as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, at least 25 percent of the undergraduate student enrollment must be Hispanic. HUD's HSIAC program is designed to help these institutions address pressing community development needs in the communities they serve. For more information about the local project, contact Uhrbrock at 956/316-7185 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.