The Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce runs the Barelas Economic Opportunity Center (BEOC) to act as a hub of community-building and education for the community. In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, we sat down with Tessah Latson Garcia, director of the BEOC, to hear about what center is working on in 2018 and beyond.
Comcast: Tell me about the mission of the Barelas Economic Opportunity Center (BEOC) and the area you serve.
Latson Garcia: The BEOC is the education and workforce development arm of the Hispano Chamber, which has historically been one of the largest hispanic chambers in the country.
In 2001, the chamber moved to the historic Barelas neighborhood just south of downtown. At that time it was a federal pocket of poverty, so we intentionally moved there to bring economic growth and a growing workforce back to the area, in spite of high rates of poverty and socio-economic barriers. Then, in 2009, with large support from partners, we expanded our campus to include the BEOC. The building holds two computer labs, one of which will be dedicated this month in partnership with Comcast.
Comcast: Tell me about the partnership with Comcast. How long have you worked together, and how do you see the two organizations aligned on values?
Latson Garcia: We have partnered with Comcast for over 15 years. Comcast believes strongly in providing services and outreach to marginalized populations, so providing the right resources and access to those populations is a huge shared value.
In our area, South Valley and Barelas have the highest number of immigrants and refugees in the population. Comcast knows that we offer our programs in multiple languages, so the Internet Essentials materials they give us to connect low-income families to the internet are always in English and Spanish.
So much of workforce development work overlaps with marginalized populations, including veterans, and Comcast is a great partner there too. Veterans have a greater need because there are higher rates of homelessness, unemployment, underemployment, and disability among that population. It is cool to harness a corporate partnership to reach those who need resources the most.
Comcast: How do your community and corporate partnerships benefit your programs?
Latson Garcia: The BEOC is a hub of activity, and that’s on purpose. With our open computer lab hours, students and families that don’t have computer or internet access at home can come work on a resume, work on computer literacy or do homework. We have an emphasis on providing services for returning folks to the workforce, and Comcast’s sponsorship of our Skill Up classes make that possible. Writing, mock interviews and soft skills training are staple Skill Up classes at the center.
Our campus is designed to be a welcoming, inclusive environment for everyone from business professionals to neighbors. Funding and support from partners like Comcast make that possible.
We talk about our relationship with Comcast when we meet other corporate partners as an example of quality partnership. It’s an example of creating workforce pipelines, and mutual benefit. It’s not just about what can Comcast do for us monetarily, but how we can provide solutions to other business partners in the community.
Training taking place in the Barelas Economic Opportunity Center