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Our Opinion: Welfare to boss

March 02, 2001

We hear so often how important it is to get people off welfare and into jobs that it almost has become a mantra of our society.

So one more program that at first glance seems aimed at doing just that would seem to not be something about which we all should get excited.

But there are several reasons to be enthusiastic about the Calexico Empowerment Project, which will start March 16. The program, to be run by San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus in Calexico, will give low-income local residents the skills to more than just get jobs. The project, funded with a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is aimed at providing the skills for such people to own their own businesses and provide jobs for others.

To be run by SDSU Continuing Education Director Suzanna Fuentes-Ferreiro, the program will focus much of its attention on classes to teach English to participants, many of whom are immigrants, but there also will be an emphasis on how to start a business and how to do things such as apply for micro-loans to get a business started.

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Fuentes-Ferreiro said organizers are in the process of setting up the relationships with local businesses and agencies that can provide the grants and loans needed to start a business.

We need jobs here in the Imperial Valley, where we constantly are plagued by unemployment. Someone starting a business often is not only creating a job for himself or herself but creating employment for others. That often grows into creating employment for many others.

Another aspect of the program is to use funding to provide at-risk youths with entrepreneurial skills. The idea is the low-income people participating in the Calexico Empowerment Project workshops and seminars might have those at-risk teens in their homes, and the youths can learn business skills from working in the family business.

The Calexico Housing Authority has been assisting SDSU-IV in getting word of the program to the authority's residents. For such residents, and other low-income people, this program could mean more than a chance at a job punching a time clock.

It could mean owning the time clock.

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