FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, August 18th
Julia Rivera, External Affairs Director
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: CONGRESO MEETS WITH LATINO YOUTH FROM JUNTOS & GALAEI
Congreso staff and Latino youth leaders from the Philadelphia community met to discuss Congreso services and community issues.
Philadelphia, PA – On Wednesday, August 16th, Congreso welcomed a group of youth leaders, ages 6-20, from Juntos & Galaei for dialogue over water ice. The week before the group of youth visited Congreso to request a meeting for the first time to discuss community issues. Congreso CEO Carolina DiGiorgio contacted the youth the same day to set up the meeting. In advance of the meeting, Juntos shared the topics the youth hoped to discuss: youth engagement, education, immigration, LGBTQ issues, and health.
DiGiorgio, accompanied by Congreso staff from across the agency, welcomed the youth, who had withheld their group affiliations when they arrived at Congreso the week before, by letting them know that “at Congreso everyone is familia.” The conversation began with an overview of the programmatic and functional differences between Congreso, a $26M multi service social service organization and Juntos and Galaei, who are uniquely focused on advocacy.
As Congreso staff presented, the youth were encouraged to ask questions to learn about how Congreso engages on these issues on a daily basis through their work with clients.
A significant portion of the conversation was spent discussing youth engagement, education and immigration. A Congreso youth intern was present to share her experiences at the organization over the last several years and how the agency has helped her achieve her own personal success. In addition, Congreso staff shared their experiences with youth through after school programming, truancy case management, and even educating the youth on healthy relationships and domestic violence.
On the topic of immigration, Congreso staff explained that Congreso proudly serves the immigrant community who are eligible to participate in many of the agency’s social service programs. Congreso also partners, for example, with agencies such as the Welcoming Center, to further enhance services available to the immigrant community. DiGiorgio, an immigrant from Honduras, shared her personal story and emphasized how valuable immigrants and their contributions are to our communities. Specifically, one youth asked whether undocumented members of the community are turned away, to which Congreso staff responded in unison, to the contrary, the agency does not independently request, track or collect information regarding legal status; program eligibility is set forth by each program funder and Congreso works to ensure all individuals obtain the assistance needed.
In addition, a second youth asked how the agency assists individuals being held in immigration detention centers. Congreso staff responded that they were unaware of ever receiving that type of request, but receive requests for assistance from individuals being held in other types of facilities requesting social services. Congreso is committed to sharing information about our services in response to such inquiries. It was also shared, that while Congreso does not provide immigration legal services, it is the agency’s practice to refer clients to legal service agencies that do.
Various other youth shared their experiences regarding challenges they have faced in the community and Congreso shared information regarding the Congreso crime victims programming and welcomed them to participate in Congreso services. The agency was thrilled that six (6) of the youth embraced the agency’s gesture to connect again and left their contact information. Congreso intends on reaching out these youth again to share information about our programs and services. DiGiorgio closed out the session with words of encouragement and support.
Unfortunately, due to the youth’s late arrival and time allotment, and as the conversation flowed through the issues in the order they were provided, issues relating to health and LGBTQ, were not discussed nor were they raised by the youth during the open Q&A session provided. However, Congreso is proud to offer health services, including primary care through the Congreso Health Center (a federally qualified health center), domestic violence, and healthy eating, amongst others. In addition, at Congreso, we value and respect all members of the LGBTQ community. For example, in the past Congreso has partnered with Galaei to train Congreso staff on LGBTQ inclusion and awareness. Members of the LGBTQ community are welcome as members of the Congreso familia and invited to participate in any of the Congreso programs and services.
Congreso is committed to open dialogue and transparency with all members of the community. Further, Congreso holds itself to the highest ethical standards, including the responsibility of honest reporting and accountability. In doing so, Congreso invited NBC/Telemundo to be present for and record the conversation. A special thank you to NBC/Telemundo, the only media present for the conversation, for documenting the dialogue. The link to the newscast can be found here.
Founded in 1977, Congreso is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2017. The organization’s mission is to strengthen Latino communities through social, economic, education and health services; leadership development and advocacy. Congreso served 17,064 individuals in FY16 through its education, employment, health and social services. For more information, visit www.congreso.net or call 215-763-8870.