San Antonio’s Eastside Education and Training Center (EETC) now can access federal programs and grants after U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson designated the workforce training organization as the 35th EnVision Center in the country.

The EnVision Center program was created by Carson in June 2018 and aims to help low-income Americans achieve self-sufficiency. The designation accentuates the center’s established unique programming with options offered by 13 federal agencies, including the Department of Labor, Department of Education, Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

“Society has changed,” Carson told dozens of local housing and education leaders Wednesday morning. “You know when I was a kid growing up, all you needed was a strong back and a willingness to work and you could do just fine. That has changed and it is necessary now to have additional support.”

Organizations that become part of the EnVision network measure success based on HUD’s self-defined four pillars of opportunity, which include economic empowerment, educational advancement, health and wellness, and character and leadership.

San Antonio is the second Texas city to receive a center designation, joining Fort Worth’s Martin Luther King Community Center.

EETC is the result of a unique partnership between the Alamo Colleges District, City of San Antonio, San Antonio Independent School District and other nonprofit agencies. It provides various courses and programs for adults and youth who want to enter the workforce – especially the medical industry – or go to college.

“EnVision Centers are a way to connect local [and federal] resources with the people who need them the most,” Carson said. “From job training classes to financial counseling, I see so many vital services being provided here that have an unimaginable impact on the lives of the people you help.”

Brittany Johnson, a single mother of two with another child on the way, is currently enrolled in one of several medical certification courses offered by EETC.

The staff at EETC helped her find housing and got her on track to find a full-time job, Johnson told Carson during his tour of the facility. “I don’t know what I would have done [without them].”

EETC offers training and certification in medical assisting, certified nursing assistants, medical front office, community health workers, as well as GED preparation and testing, literacy education, child care, re-entry services for ex-offenders, financial counseling services, and entrepreneurial training.

“If you have that [EnVision] distinction for community colleges, then maybe the Alamo Colleges District could be an ‘EnVision District,'” Alamo Colleges Chancellor Mike Flores said. “We want to compete and provide for economic and social mobility for the Eastside [and] for the City of San Antonio. We want to ensure that we provide credentials and training so that folks are able to be part of the American middle class.”

While the EnVision Center initiative is not directly related to housing, there is a correlation between affordable housing and access to education, jobs, and income, said Veronica Soto, director of the City’s Neighborhood and Housing Services Department, told the Rivard Report.

“I work in the affordable housing space, but I’m treating the symptom,” Soto said. “The cause is low income. Why do people have low incomes? Because they don’t have jobs that pay well and sometimes they don’t have a job because they don’t have the skillset to get it.”

EnVision Centers don’t receive funding, but because it’s in a federal Promise Zone, EETC will receive two preference points for HUD grant applications, officials said. Also, HUD will provide technical assistance to help connect EETC with federal services and philanthropic partners.

The EETC gives the community an opportunity to learn those skills and break out of generational poverty, Soto said.

“HUD has many important initiatives. … the real measure of success is not how many people we can get into these programs, it’s how many we can get out of them so that they are self-sufficient,” Carson said.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org