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June 14, 2012

Host: José Cárdenas

Barrio Works

  |   Video
  • Barrio Works is a hands-on workshop focusing on metal working, wood working and bike repair designed to help young people develop technical trade and life skills. Chris Williams, Barrio Works coordinator, talks about the community involvement with the workshop.
  • Chris Williams - Director, Barrio Works
Category: Community   |   Keywords: barrio, works, education, community, ,

View Transcript
José Cardenas: Barrio works has become a program where inner-city kids can get hands-on experience with special technical skills. They're able to take care of bikes and learn how to build custom bikes. With me to talk about this program is Chris Williams, coordinator for Barrio Works. Welcome to "Horizonte."

Chris Williams: Thank you.

José Cardenas: Let's talk a little about the history of the program. I realize it's more than just bikes. Let's go back. Neighborhood Ministries is the overarching organization?

Chris Williams: Neighborhood Ministries for close to 30 years now. The Barrio Works program began as Barrio Bikes in about 2000 and began as a way to help kids get a bike. Usually they would take a donated bike from somebody in kind of Phoenix at large. They'd take a donated bike that was usually pretty worn down and fix it up and give it to a youth.

José Cardenas: When did this start?

Chris Williams: That program started in 2000, and I took over in 2007 -- beginning of 2007 -- and we just kind of ramped up that original program and have expanded the Earn a Bike program. We take youth from our community immediately surrounding out at about 19th Avenue and Van Buren and youth as young as seven or eight years old come in, and they sign in in the shop. We have time sheets. For one hour of their work, we give them about $2.50 of shop credit that they can use to buy a bike or parts to fix a bike if they don't have one.

José Cardenas: The name has changed in part because the scope of the activities is broader.

Chris Williams: Yeah. We love bikes. It made the most sense to be the spear that we lead with, but we have overarching vision to teach technical trade skills beyond just bikes. We want to continue to learn new skills, so we also teach metalworking and woodworking in the shop and are open to other skills to teach youth.

José Cardenas: And how many kids are we talking about?

Chris Williams: Through Neighborhood Ministries, we have access to well over 1000 youth throughout a given week or a year, but we have about 50 that we reach with good strong ties.

José Cardenas: We've got some pictures on the screen right now of some of those kids.

Chris Williams: Yeah.

José Cardenas: In terms of the make-up of the classes or the groups, the ages and sexes?

Chris Williams: Predominantly we serve young men. Most of those youth fall within the grades of third grade and 12th grade, so they run eight or nine years old up to 18. But we do see some -- I think there was a picture of some young ladies, and they tend to help out in the bike shop more and some of the welding classes and things like that.

José Cardenas: You've now evolved. It's not simply a way for the kids to earn their rights to a bike. You guys are selling them now.

Chris Williams: That's correct. In 2010, we developed alongside a manufacturer called Works in Cycles. They're in New York City. They have a rich reputation. They've been building bikes in the U.S. since 1898, and we set ourselves up as a private seller of their Cruiser bike. We get their frames completely unassembled, get them painted locally, reassemble them, make some design upgrades, and sell those to Phoenix at large. We have a lot of used bikes that we sell into our community immediately surrounding us for as cheap as $50 or even cheaper. The Cruiser bikes are a little bit high-end Cruiser, but we can use those. They might not sell in our community, but we can use those to tell our story at large and get other help to fund what we're doing.

José Cardenas: How do you promote the sales?

Chris Williams: As a nonprofit, we're short on capital and marketing funds, but recently we've used a crowd funding website called indigo-go to run a 40-day campaign. In 40 days, we've raised about $10,000, and that's a great leap forward for us. With that, we'll be building a website shortly that will help us with marketing and making our bikes more accessible.

José Cardenas: And are you still taking donations?

Chris Williams: The campaign has ended but, yes, we'll still continue to sell bikes and take help.

José Cardenas: If somebody wants more information about that, whether it's about making contributions or just getting more information about the program, how would they obtain that?

Chris Williams: We have a page on the Neighborhood Ministries website. The website is www.NMAZ.org. There's a Barrio Works page there. There's also a Barrio Bikes Facebook page, which is an older page. Very shortly, we should have a Barrio Works dot com or dot org website.

José Cardenas: What is the biggest thing the kids get out of the program?

Chris Williams: We're hoping to instill in them an entrepreneurial spirit and a confidence they can create something and be a part of something in our community. The world tends to tell them there's not too much to be expected from them. We believe that there are many talents and skills inherent in our community, and we just want to bring those to light. To the extent that we can help kids learn from our failures and successes in launching this bike shop and get them in a better position to start a business of their own someday, we'd be very happy to do that.

José Cardenas: Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte." I'm happy to talk about this great program.

Chris Williams: Thanks.

BASIS Schools

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  • John Hillis, Head of School for BASIS Scottsdale and Julia Toews, Head of School for BASIS Tucson talk about the recent rankings of the two schools in the top 5 by Newsweek Magazine, The Daily Beast Website, and US News and World Report and what makes their programs among the best in the nation.
  • John Hillis - Head of School, BASIS Scottsdale
  • Julia Toews - Head of School, BASIS Tucson
Category: Education   |   Keywords: Basis, school, newsweek, magazine, website, ,

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José Cardenas: 11 Arizona high schools are named among the top 1000 in the nation by "Newsweek" magazine and the Daily Beast website, and two are in the top five. The new rankings in "Newsweek's" America's best high schools 2012 show the highest-ranked Arizona schools were Basis Scottsdale at Number 3 and Basis Tucson at Number 5. Schools were ranked based on factors provided by school administrators from college acceptance rates to on-time graduation rates. Also, in its second annual rankings of the top 2500 high schools in 2011, 2012, Basis Tucson was named the toughest high school in the country, and Basis Scottsdale was named fifth. "U.S. News and World Report" in May also ranked Basis Tucson sixth in the nation. Joining me to talk about the school's national rankings is Julie Toews, head of the school for Basis Tucson. Also here is John Hillis, head of the school for Basis Scottsdale.

John Hillis: Probably 60% of our teachers have got their Master's degrees, and 10% will get their Ph.Ds. These people are experts in their fields. They don't necessarily have to have taught before, but we need their skills. Apart from that, we have a very, very rigorous curriculum, and that was something that has been established for almost 14 years, and it's been replicated as well. We've proved by the very fight that we are right that the curriculum works. Lastly, I would suggest that the students themselves are very motivated as well as their parents being motivated, too. If you keep that bar low, they'll probably achieve as low as that bar is.

José Cardenas: Give us a little bit more of the sense of the curriculum that's the reason for the success.

Julie Toews: Sure. Well, we start at fifth grade, and we go through 12th grade. Right off the bat, one of the things is that the students don't stay in one classroom with one teacher. They move around from class to class, so the English class is taught by a teacher with an English degree, the science class taught by a teacher with a science degree. They take 9 courses as fifth graders and it does pose an organizational challenge for them. We actually instruct in organizational methods and study skills. We spend a lot of time one-on-one with kids. They take Latin, English, prealgebra, science, geography, P.E., music, and art in fifth grade. And I'm missing something.

José Cardenas: And who developed the curriculum?

Julie Toews: Well, the curriculum was originally established by Olga and Michael Block, who are the founders of the school, and it has really evolved over the years. Part of that evolution has been made possible by the teachers that they've hired. Now I'm going to toot my own horn a little bit, but I came in as a teacher. I'm just an example. I had a Master's degree in English, and they said, look at the English curriculum and tell us what do you think is missing? As bringing teachers in and treating them as professionals and as resources, they really empower the teachers and make them want to stay.

José Cardenas: So it's evolved over time. We do have some pictures of the schools themselves that we'll put up on the screen. Is the Tucson school -- is this one yours?

Julie Toews: It is.

José Cardenas: And then we have a picture of the Scottsdale campus, and then we've got some pictures that we'll just run as we're talking of the students. That's your campus. Right?

Julie Toews: Mm-hmm.

José Cardenas: So the curriculum is something that has attracted some strong support, people like Craig Barrett. The former chairman of Intel chairs your board. What is it that you think appeals to the business community?

Julie Toews: Well, I think the business community has realized for a while that American kids are unprepared to compete not only in the American market but in the global market. You find a lot of businesses actually looking outside of the United States to hire, because those students are better prepared than our own. So I think there's -- Craig Barrett's interest in Basis is really an investment back into school.
José Cardenas: There’s obviously a different demographic in your school John. Talk a little about that.

John Hillis: The demographic in our school is different than Tucson. It tends to reflect people that live in Scottsdale. We have people from Nyssa, Tempe, and Central Phoenix. We've got maybe 25-30% Asian and obviously predominantly white. It's different in Tucson.

José Cardenas: In Tucson, as I understand, your incoming senior class is 41% Hispanic.

Julie Toews: 41% Hispanic. I'm proud to say that six have become national Hispanic scholars, which is a tremendous achievement. In the past, we've seen national Hispanic scholars from our schools go to Harvard and Williams College and MIT, for example. Those students are heavily recruited. We have a lot of colleges and universities come to our relatively small campus to recruit our students, and one of the reasons is that we have a large number of Hispanic students.

José Cardenas: Let's talk about the criteria for the three rankings. We said a little bit in the intro about the "Newsweek" criterion. It's about graduation rates.

Julie Toews: "Newsweek," there are six factors. It used to be much simpler and is hard for me to keep straight now. It's number of exams given and, in addition to that, performance of those exams and graduation rate, college matriculation. And what else?

José Cardenas: And what were the criteria that got you the ranking as the toughest school in the country in the "Washington Post?"

Julie Toews: It's very simple, and in fact it's a little bit crude. When I talk to people, I say we don't do what we do for the rankings. It's just icing on the cake. "The Washington Post" just takes the number of A.P. exams that we gave -- and, by the way, we require A.P. exams and pay for all of them, and we require them of all students. It's just the number of exams we gave divided by the number of kids.

José Cardenas: Advanced placement exams?

Julie Toews: That's right. Those are scored one through five, and then college universities can choose to award college credit for those. A lot of times, when our kids leave to go to a public university, they enter at sophomore status.

José Cardenas: Finally we had the "U.S. News and World" ranking. That's where you guys switched places?

Julie Toews: No. Scottsdale didn't appear in that one.

John Hillis: We were a year behind. We didn't have enough graduates to qualify.

José Cardenas: On that one, though, what were the criteria?

Julie Toews: The first one was how the students did in the context of their state. It was especially relative with what would be expected in their context, in their locale. The second part is how well we serve the least privileged students in the state, including black, Hispanic, and the low-income students. The last part is performance on A.B. and A.P. exams. And, on that part, we scored six.

John, we’ve got six schools right now. Talk about what we can expect in the future in terms of other Basis schools.

John Hillis: Well, we started in 1988 with Tucson, and then Scottsdale opened. In 2010, we opened Otto Valley. Last year, we opened for Chandler, another one in Peoria, and one in Flagstaff. So they are just coming to the end of their first year. Next year, we're going to open the lab school in Tucson and open a skill in central Phoenix just on the 51 and Cactus. We're also going to open a campus in D.C. So it's exciting times. It really is. Being as good as we are, we have to probably prove that this is a great school regardless of what city we open in.
José Cardenas: And are you referring there to the general perception that schools in Arizona aren't that good? Does that impose a higher burden, do you think?

John Hillis: I don't necessarily think so, but at the same time you can't understand when you look at funds, for example, for skills and the low amount of funding that Arizona skills get. You have to obviously anticipate that it's going to be quite difficult. If you open a skill in Washington, D.C., for example, I would imagine the funding you're going to get is probably twice, maybe even two and a half times, what a child's education is arguably worth in Arizona. We prove just how successful the Basis model is, the philosophy that we have, and the curriculum that we've introduced.

José Cardenas: Well, congratulations to both of you on the success of your schools and the whole Basis project, and thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Both: Thank you so much.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program

  |   Video
  • The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) is a federal program providing funding to states and cities to help rehabilitate neighborhoods hit by the housing crisis. Chicanos Por La Causa was the lead applicant for a national consortium for non-profit affordable housing developers, and was awarded 137 million for the second round of NSP funding to revitalize neighborhoods in eight states and the District of Columbia. David Adame, Chief Financial Officer for Chicanos Por La Causa, talks about the how the program works.
  • David Adame - Chief Financial Officer, Chicanos Por La Causa
Category: Business/Economy   |   Keywords: neighborhood, stabilization, housing, market, program.,

View Transcript
José Cardenas: The federal Neighborhood Stabilization program known as NSP provides funding to states and cities to buy and rehabilitate vacant and abandoned properties. La Causa was awarded $137 million in funding for Round 2 of NSP from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. With me to talk about the neighborhood stabilization program is David Adame. Welcome back to "Horizonte." You've been a guest in the past, and we've talked about a number of CPLP programs. This one is particularly remarkable because of the size of the grant.

David Adame: Absolutely. We were told by the Secretary of HUD that this was, in history, the largest ever given to a national consortium of Latino organizations across the country, so we're very proud of it. Not only was it the largest award. We're actually the lead in the nation in this program, really demonstrating that nonprofit consortia can be a good economic generation and make this program successful.
José Cardenas: You were, as we noted in the introduction, the lead for this proposal. How was it that that came about?

David Adame: Well, we're part of a national association called the National Association of Latino Community Asset Builders, and we were asked to be the lead agency, because we're one of the largest members of the membership in the country with a capacity to really manage this size of grant, not only managing the dollars coming through but also managing the compliance to make sure everything is going according to plan and to rules and regulation. We also set up different innovations to make sure we could efficiently manage and demonstrate this program. Part of it was creating a web-based portal to make sure that folks across the country could call us if there was any questions or problems associated with any part of this whole process. Again, we're buying foreclosed properties, abandoned properties, doing a scope of work, rehabilitating them, and putting them with families so they'll have a nice place to live.

José Cardenas: How do you make sure that happens? There's been a lot of ink in the press lately about investors coming in and almost a repeat of what happened a few years ago, buying up houses and making it difficult for the people to get into the housing market.

David Adame: Our outreach, we do home buyer fair expos to make sure we educate the community. This is about getting homes in the hands of families. One of the things we really do is to make sure that we have a counseling component of our program, so all the families go through an eight-hour counseling session. We're a HUD-certified counseling agency as well as the members of the consortium across the country. We make sure this is going to be their primary residence and a place they can call home for their family.

José Cardenas: The program covers a number of states, as we noted, and the District of Columbia.

David Adame: Everything is different. Every market's different. As far as the chance to buy homes, the investor issue has been throughout the country, and we've been able to make sure that our agencies reach out to all the partners in the different markets to make sure that we are a good clearinghouse for that. Again, because we've been number 1 in the country, we're getting support from other major lenders, city, community development in particular being very supportive of us. Home Depot, Lowe's, companies like that that have come in to enhance the program and give us other tools to make this program really work.

José Cardenas: Are you talking specifically about CPLC?

David Adame: Yes. Absolutely. Again, we're the lead agency. We manage all the dollars, and we've had clean audits, clean reviews, clean monitoring to make sure we're doing this well. We're very proud of that, because the Secretary of HUD actually made this program available to nongovernment agencies such as ourselves to demonstrate how efficient a nongovernment agency would really make this program work. We're number 1 in the country. Habitat for Humanity is number 2 in the country. We think we’ve demonstrated that we can make this a market-driven type of program working through the non-profit.

José Cardenas: Number 1 in the country as measured by what?

David Adame: By getting the dollars out in a timely manner, meeting your goals. And I think the most important factor is how do you leverage the dollars from a recycling standpoint? The award was 137 million, but you're allowed to recycle these dollars. For example, we buy a house. We rehab it. We sell it to a family. The dollars we recruit, we could then go get another house. We clearly have demonstrated that we have the ability and efficiencies to recycle. We could double the amount depending on how well we're doing. There's been three rounds of this program. There was a first round. We got a three-year head start and up. We're actually ranked number 3 in the country as far as recycling. We've recycled about 25 million of these dollars already in this program.

José Cardenas: Does that include the opportunities that are available because of your existence?

David Adame: I'm glad you asked that, because that's a big part of the Obama administration's excitement about this program and why this program is being proposed in the Jobs Act and some of the new legislation going through. We've been able to create jobs with this. We've created about 850 jobs. Indirectly, we've created about 2300 jobs. Exterminating, realtors, construction jobs created with this, and we're very proud of that fact. We're proud that about $30 million have gone to small businesses throughout the country with the 13 other nonprofits who are working in this program.

José Cardenas: All of this was the subject of a conference recently. Was it here in Phoenix?

David Adame: Yes, it was.

José Cardenas: In these circles, it was kind of star-studded in terms of the dignitaries you had here to talk about this.

David Adame: Absolutely. We had one of the assistant secretaries from HUD. She's overseeing the program. She doesn't come out to every conference you want to have. She came out because she wanted to congratulate us. It was a conference to talk about where we're at and to make sure we want to make ourself accountable and do even better, but it was also a conference to celebrate where we're at so far, and the Secretary came out to acknowledge our great work and to encourage us to continue and to really pay homage to us as far as what impact we're making -- historic impact we're making not only from a Latino perspective but from a nonprofit perspective that this is a good model to make impact in our communities.

José Cardenas: Tell us what will happen in future in terms of the development of the program and your role.

David Adame: We're getting notoriety. The Secretary mentions us in many conferences, and we get attention from that. Last week we were invited to Chicago to participate in former president Bill Clinton's global initiatives program, another initiative that will go out and raise $400 million to continue to do similar work, to create jobs, to create housing opportunities. We're also hoping that the next round of this funding will be approved. It was part of the Jobs Act that didn't get any traction, but it's getting attention from both sides of the aisle because of jobs impact.

José Cardenas: So bigger things to come.

David Adame: Absolutely.

José Cardenas: Thank you so much for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it, and congratulations on the success today.
David Adame: Thank you for the opportunity.

José Cardenas: That's our show this Thursday night. From all of us here at Horizonte, I’m José Cardenas. Have a good evening.