Growing up, Donna resident Mariana Lozano watched how hard her parents worked and yet how they struggled just to make ends meet. As she watched, she made plans. Her plans were to finish college so she could help them as her family’s first college graduate.
“A friend told me I needed to apply to VIDA,” Lozano said.
VIDA is the Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement. The nonprofit organization was founded in 1995 by leaders of Valley Interfaith and Rio Grande Valley business leaders. They realized education and skill development provide a ticket out of poverty, government assistance and stagnation in low-paying jobs. They also knew a skilled workforce allows existing companies in the area to thrive and provides an impetus for new investment in our region.
VIDA offers its participants wrap-around services to knock down the barriers that traditionally prevent individuals from completing a certificate or degree program. Those services include financial assistance, individual and group case-management sessions, soft-skills training and career guidance.
Lozano liked what she heard, then her friend helped her complete her VIDA application.
“I heard many good things about VIDA and how it has helped many students who want to continue with their education but sometimes don’t have the resources they need,” Lozano said.
VIDA Changes Another Life
Lozano gained acceptance into the South Texas College Vocational Nursing Program. With VIDA’s help, she completed the program in one year, graduating this year.
“VIDA helped me reach graduation by helping me with tuition and with uniform assistance,” Lozano said. “If VIDA would not have helped me pay for my classes, it would have been so hard for me to finish school and to be completely focused on the program. My family was going through some financial circumstances and we were short on money.”
Lozano completed STC’s accredited Vocational Nursing Program. She then had to pass the NCLEX-PN, a state licensing exam, to become a licensed vocational nurse. Now an LVN, Lozano is earning $20 an hour at a short-term-rehabilitation and long-term-care facility in McAllen.
“My life has changed as a result of having VIDA’s assistance,” Lozano said. “I can continue with my education without being stressed about how I am going to pay for my classes.”
Because of VIDA’s wrap-around services, Lozano benefited from more than the financial assistance she received.
“VIDA has not only helped me with financial support. It has helped me grow as a person and realize that helping my community is very important—to help grow others and myself.”