Educating and Empowering South Phoenix

            There are many low income and immigrant families living in the City of Phoenix and in particular the community of South Phoenix which desperately needs help caring for these people.   According to the 2002 Arizona Republic article Phoenix Low on Funds to Assist Poor Families by columnist Yvonne Wingett, “An overwhelming need for help has forced the city’s Family Service Centers into crisis mode:  They are running short on money and time.”  There are currently hundreds of newcomers and poor families who need financial assistance, food, clothing, transportation and simply a helping hand in strengthening and maintaining these important life skills to better their lives and that of their families.  In South Phoenix, there is one organization that assists the needy in all these facets.

            Unlimited Potential is a non-profit organization located in South Phoenix on Central Avenue and St. Catherine Street.  It helps low-income families, as well as newly arrived Spanish speaking immigrants, better equip themselves for today’s world.  My Learning from South Phoenix class met here one Friday to participate in a discussion and tour the facility.  The organization was tucked away near St. Catherine’s Catholic Church.  The establishment consisted of a series of small rooms that were connected, each serving individual purposes.  One room was sort of a “day care” center with a myriad of toys and games, another was a classroom for English language instruction, one a kitchen, etc.  An Unlimited Potential staff member guided us through these rooms individually, explaining the purpose and use of each room.  The philosophy of the organization is that education is a means to empower individuals for their own self– fulfillment and participation in the decision making of the community (Unlimited Potential Brochure, Fall 2005).   Since its beginning in 1986, the UP has offered a variety of assistance and programs for all ages and members of the family.  The programs operate four days a week from September through June and include math, reading and art activities during school intersession, as well as hikes in the Superstition Mountains, etc.  Currently there are 42 women enrolled in English language programs, 31 preschoolers in child development programs and 40 children grades K-6 attending intersession programs (Unlimited Potential Brochure, Fall 2005).  As the staff member explained to us, a board of directors consisting of 13 volunteers are a vital force in providing quality educational experiences for all who attend and anyone who would like to share their abilities and talents are always welcomed to volunteer in many of the activities.  Also, well known companies and organizations like Desert Schools Federal Credit Union, Target, eWomenNetwork, Wal-Mart, Phoenix Suns Charities and American West Education Fund have all contributed monetary donations to the organization.  So, as you can see, The Unlimited Potential is a vital source in the community for advocating educational opportunity and change in South Phoenix.                

Learning From South Phoenix   Tom Haasl