by New Opportunities, Inc.Region 1 · Waterbury, CT
The goal of the RIBA ASPIRA initiative is to reduce the unemployment rate by 50% for Waterbury’s South End (Ri)ver (Ba)ldwin (RIBA) neighborhood community over a ten-year span. The project is currently moving into year three and has a target rate of reducing unemployment by 16.7% at the end of that year. The initiative is addressing unemployment through the development of the RIBA Career Academy which is a collaborative partnership that brings employment training, basic education skills, workforce investment, and social services in one site for RIBA residents.
Local Need Addressed
The RIBA neighborhood has an unemployment rate of 23%, which is nearly four times the unemployment average in the City of Waterbury alone. Factors contributing to unemployment in the RIBA neighborhood include low educational attainment, limited access to job services, and a fragmented social services system.
- The median household income for the neighborhood’s census tract is $24,201
- 43.9% of neighborhood residents live below the poverty line.
- Only 68.3% of RIBA neighborhood residents have a high school diploma, which is 23% lower than the state of Connecticut average.
- Minorities are nearly three times more likely to be in poverty in the Waterbury area, according to New Opportunities’ 2018 comprehensive community needs assessment.
Nineteen individuals completed the English as a Second Language (ESL) classes developed for neighborhood residents based on community engagement activities.
Three participants successfully completed their GED diploma through a GED cohort class directly available at the RIBA Career Academy.
Literacy Training Completions
132 adults completed literacy training available at the RIBA Career Academy.
Individuals received external referrals for employment opportunities.
The RIBA ASPIRA initiative utilizes neighborhood residents as block captains to engage potential initiative participants. The block captains bring ideas and serve as members of the leadership team. One of the main objectives for block captains is to train community residents in public education and engagement issues that have local policy implications.
One of the community concepts implemented through RIBA ASPIRA was South End Socials, which is based on the Neighbor Night concept developed by national consultant William Traynor. These events centered around community gatherings as a springboard to conducting meaningful community conversations.
So far, two events have taken place; however, this model is becoming a major point of emphasis in the 3rd and 4th year of initiative activities. The census tract being engaged is predominantly Hispanic with disproportionate unemployment, educational attainment, and poverty rates. A major point of emphasis is engaging residents to share their stories and to help impact local policies.
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