Family finds affordable schooling and cultural diversity in Utah

September 17, 2018 | GET MORE : Social Responsibility

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The U.S. Bank-funded Head Start program has made the family feel at home after their move from California.

Xochitl and José Fonseca enjoyed living in Sacramento, California, but the high cost of living, traffic and lack of affordable preschools created a life they couldn’t afford. 

“Our priority is to live in a safe place where our daughters have access to a great early childhood education that is also affordable,” says Xochitl. 

The Fonsecas decided to move to Utah following her parents, who relocated to Salt Lake City not only for its relatively low cost of living but also for its growing Latino population. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, among Utah’s minority populations, Latinos added the most people since 2010 – 75,948. As the state’s largest minority, they now comprise 14 percent of the state population, or 434,288 people.

During their search Xochitl and José were referred to the Head Start program, in which they found an affordable preschool and a welcoming community that is helping the entire family thrive. 

“We are so relieved that our daughters will learn the skills they need before starting kindergarten. If it weren’t for this program, our daughters wouldn’t be in school,” says Xochitl, adding that José found a job in construction.

Head Start is a federal program designed to help young children get basic medical attention and make a smoother transition from early childhood to the school environment. Head Start is offered for children ages 3-5, while Early Head Start is available for children 0-2.

Located on the south side of Salt Lake City, developing this Head Start facility was a priority for the community based on the high population of single heads of households and percentage of affordable housing developments in the area. 

When nonprofit Community Development Finance Alliance (CDFA) started to make plans to build it, they needed a partner that could help them keep the development costs to a minimum. They reached out to U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC), the tax credit subsidiary of U.S. Bank. The organizations had previously worked together on four projects over the past decade.

“We created a cutting edge innovative financial fund that allowed us to cut down costs to give CDFA the capital they really needed to complete the project,” explains Emily E. Rose, vice president of new markets and historic tax credits programs at USBCDC.

“Our strong relationship with USBCDC’s staff is important because when difficulties come up with these projects, they approach them with a great attitude, and they solve problems,” adds Jessica Noire, CDFA’s president. 

USBCDC’s investment helped create the only free, comprehensive preschool program in the community. It serves more than 175 preschool age children and adults annually who are living in poverty. The 13,000-square-foot site includes classrooms and medical and dental clinics. 

It also has a commercial kitchen through which Head Start runs its Sauté Culinary Job Training Program for parents, 80 percent of whom are underemployed or unemployed.

In effect, Xochitl was able to complete her high school education and receive culinary training through this program. 

“I am already making plans to start my own food business,” Xochitl points out. “The Head Start program has given us the opportunity to build a better future.”

Story by Marcherie Vázquez of U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation.