$360K grant to fund Youth Leadership Academy in Hidalgo County

Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez’s office has been awarded a $360,000 grant by national service program AmeriCorps/VISTA to begin a Youth Leadership Academy in the county.

This partnership between Hidalgo County and the federal program to alleviate poverty was ratified by the Hidalgo County Commissioners Court during its Sept. 21 regular meeting.

This is the first step in creating a leadership program that will teach future generations of policymakers the complexities of poverty, and how government and non-governmental organizations can help mitigate poverty.

“Poverty is one our country’s greatest public policy challenges and I vowed to address this issue during my time in office because it is a particular problem in Hidalgo County,” Cortez said in a news release Monday. “I am excited about securing the help of AmeriCorps/VISTA, which has a track record of fighting poverty that goes back to 1965.”

President John F. Kennedy originated the idea for Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 which was then incorporated into AmeriCorps in 1993.

Cortez has begun forming an advisory board known as the Prosperity Task Force, which will address poverty in the county and help develop the academy’s curriculum.

“The program they will help us create acknowledges that the challenges of poverty are not going away,” Cortez stated. “They will help us begin the process of teaching a new generation of leadership in Hidalgo County about the complexities of this issue and what is available to help our low-income residents.”

VISTA members will begin working in Hidalgo County to evaluate the needs of the low-income residents in the county and work on developing a curriculum to teach high school and college-age students about public policy challenges surrounding poverty issues.

The academy is expected to launch in 2022.