A nonprofit social services organization based in California, LifeSTEPS was founded in 1996 by two of their current board officers. They believed that for low-income people to break the cycle of poverty, more than just comfortable and safe affordable housing would be needed. To do that, LifeSTEPS began by providing supportive services at five affordable housing properties. Today the organization serves more than 280 properties in California and continues to grow.
In 2014, LifeSTEPS began using Project WET lessons as a pilot program in 13 sites at the after-school programs they facilitate for children living in LifeSTEPS housing. Staff members were trained in a workshop specifically designed for them by a California Project WET facilitator.
“Our after school programs are essential in breaking the cycle of poverty,” the organization told Project WET in a recent email. “Students are provided with a safe and nurturing environment in which they receive homework assistance, mentoring, activities to build social/leadership skills and participate in community events. Seventy-eight percent of the students enrolled in our program improve academically by at least one letter grade in a core subject area. The program places a great emphasis on reading proficiency, and math and science curricula.”
We asked LifeSTEPS to tell us more about the work they do and how they are using Project WET in that context:
Project WET Foundation (PWF): What does LifeSTEPS do?
LifeSTEPS: Case management is the core service we are contracted to provide. This includes working with residents to assess and determine their needs. Depending on an individual resident’s needs, our social workers can provide means for financial assistance, crisis intervention and in-home supportive services. The objective in all our services is to cultivate the skills necessary for clients to achieve self-sufficiency and financial stability.
In addition to our after-school programs for kids, we also provide extensive Adult Education programs. These programs and classes include a financial literacy program called “Control Your Finances.” Some 92 percent of residents who have taken this course have said it was “life changing.” A “New Job 101” program addresses employability and job search skills; health and wellness classes, parenting classes; and more. All adult education classes are designed to facilitate higher degrees of self-sufficiency and economic sustainability.
PWF: How did you start using Project WET in your after-school program?
LifeSTEPS: We came across Project WET on the web while researching curriculum for our after school programs. We were focusing on curriculum with a green theme and this is a good fit.
PWF: How have you been using Project WET so far, and what are your plans moving forward?
LifeSTEPS: The 2014 pilot program used the WET curriculum at 13 sites in the desert region, with 28 youth participating. This year, more LifeSTEPS staff have been trained to bring the curriculum to our LA South and LA Valley after-school programs where we anticipate serving as many as 75 students. We will be implementing 10 lessons over 10 weeks alongside our summer reading program.
PWF: Why is Project WET a good resource for you?
LifeSTEPS: Given the current drought conditions across the state, water conservation is a timely lesson for our youth. The hands-on lessons and activity-themed program keep our youth actively engaged and enthused about what they are learning.
LifeSTEPS is committed to empowering our clients – whether it is about financial education, job skills or water conservation. Knowledge is power and the WET curriculum brings home the idea that what individuals do can make a difference. Implementing the lessons taught through Project WET impact the environment and empower our youth to be part of a positive movement.