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AVANCE-El Paso’s Innovative Early Childhood and Parenting Program Earns National Award for Exceptional Immigrant Integration Initiatives

Press Release
Wednesday, May 20, 2009

AVANCE-El Paso’s Innovative Early Childhood and Parenting Program Earns National Award for Exceptional Immigrant Integration Initiatives

WASHINGTON – The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) on Wednesday announced the four winners of its inaugural E Pluribus Unum national awards for exceptional immigrant integration initiatives, with an innovative El Paso, Texas, early childhood and parenting education program receiving a $50,000 prize.

The E Pluribus Unum Prizes program, established by MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy with generous support from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, seeks to inspire others to take on this important work and encourage the adoption of effective practices.

AVANCE-El Paso and the three other E Pluribus Unum Prize winners will be honored tonight at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., at the Library of Congress featuring remarks by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and other national policymakers. The winners were selected from more than 500 applications received from around the nation.

AVANCE-El Paso is an innovative educational initiative in El Paso, Texas, that each year serves more than 3,000 young Americans and their primarily immigrant Latino parents. Hosted by 14 schools in and around the nation’s fourth poorest city, AVANCE-El Paso helps parents and their pre-school children break the cycle of poverty through early childhood development, parenting education, adult literacy and healthy marriage classes.

Guided by the philosophy that parents are the most important and most constant teachers that children will ever have, AVANCE-El Paso works to improve the lives of children by empowering parents with literacy, job and parenting skills, while at the same time providing high-quality early childhood development programs.

“What made AVANCE stand out among the many excellent immigrant integration initiatives around the nation are its innovative multi-generational approach and its focus on the entire family,” said MPI Senior Vice President Michael Fix, co-director of the National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “We also were so impressed with the remarkable results they achieve with limited resources.”

“Poverty does not have to lead to educational failure,” said AVANCE-El Paso Executive Director Sanjay Mathur. “Our strategy is to focus on the youngest and most vulnerable children at the earliest stages in their development, and to build strong families with the education of children and parents alike.”

The strategy has produced a number of benefits for families served by the non-profit, as well as for the greater community:

  • Although 94 percent of AVANCE-El Paso children are economically disadvantaged, program graduates outscore their school district peers as a whole on standardized achievement tests by 12 to 15 percentage points and have shown higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates.
  • AVANCE remedies a gap in early education and parental involvement that schools lack the tools, focus or resources to fill, at an average annual per-family cost of just $2,500.
  • AVANCE’s family support and education program has a multi-generational benefit: as mothers and fathers are given the tools to become better parents, address low self-esteem and dependency, improve their connectivity to the community, and set life goals, they inevitably serve as better role models and improve their children’s lives.
  • Built into AVANCE’s model – and emblematic of its entrepreneurial nature – is a “ladder-up” philosophy that incorporates parents who graduate from the program into AVANCE operations, with some graduates going on to gain valuable work experience at AVANCE and through AmeriCorps.

 

Launched in 1997, AVANCE-El Paso is an offshoot of the AVANCE (which means “to progress” in Spanish) program begun in San Antonio in 1973 that has expanded to nine other Texas locations, southern New Mexico and San Jose, California.

 

AVANCE-El Paso and the three other winners, each given a $50,000 award, are reflective of the diversity of government and non-government organizations involved in immigrant integration efforts at the state and local levels.
 

“There is a pressing need to bolster immigrant integration efforts at the national, state and local levels,” said Margie McHugh, co-director of MPI’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. “Too often our national immigration debate proceeds without addressing immigrant integration issues. Yet, the thousands of groups and individuals engaged in immigrant integration initiatives across the country are ultimately playing the most important role in ensuring that our immigration policies are a success.”

 

The other E Pluribus Unum national award winners are:  Littleton Immigrant Integration Initiative (Littleton, CO); Internationals Network for Public Schools (New York, NY); and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (Nashville, TN).

Additional information about the winners can be found at www.integrationawards.org. For more information, or to set up interviews, please contact Michelle Mittelstadt at 202-266-1910 or at [email protected].

 

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The Migration Policy Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C. dedicated to analysis of the movement of people worldwide.