Edcouch resident Lupita Caballero felt fortunate to have a job as a health-care provider but earning $10 an hour placed her in a situation countless Rio Grande Valley residents know all too well.
She knew she needed a degree in nursing to advance in the field of health care, but on her salary, she had no discretionary income to pay for college classes, textbooks and uniforms. Though the hurdles never knocked her off her feet, they stood just high enough to prevent her from soaring over them.
When a friend told Caballero about Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, she realized the program could provide her the momentum she needed to face these hurdles that had kept her stagnant. She applied and was accepted, allowing her to pursue an Associate Degree of Nursing.
For close to 30 years, VIDA has provided Valley residents with the wraparound resources they need to move out of low-paying, often dead-end jobs into high-demand, high-skill, high-paying careers. The programs VIDA supports include nursing, medical coding specialist, computer aided drafting technology, legal office specialist, police officer, firefighter, automotive technology, electrician assistant, plumbing, welding and HVAC. And there are many more.
Based in Mercedes, VIDA supports students from one end of the Valley to the other. It offers financial support to help with higher-education-related expenses, such as tuition, books, uniforms, child care and transportation.
“Having VIDA assist me with tuition and books has been a great help to me,” Caballero said. “I no longer stress about how I’m going to pay for my classes.” But she is quick to point out what you are apt to hear from every current VIDA participant and graduate: VIDA is about far more than financial assistance.
“I couldn’t have done it without all the help VIDA offers,” Caballero said, “not only monetary but with the amazing psychological support we get through our counselors.”
Included in VIDA’s wraparound services are career guidance and intensive case management. In their monthly sessions, they address topics like family and life stressors and emotional challenges. Their case managers also serve as career counselors. They talk to VIDA participants about time management, study skills, resume preparation, interviewing and money management.
With VIDA’s help, Caballero, a first-generation college student, will graduate in December.
“VIDA is a great program, and I highly recommend it to my friends,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without all the help VIDA offers.”