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A look at how Project Arriba helps individuals and the community

By Maria Garcia, MariaG@kvia.com.
Published On: Aug 28 2013 06:55:54 PM CDT
Updated On: Jan 16 2014 01:02:59 PM CST
EL PASO, Texas -

Veronica Ortiz, the Cardiovascular Nurse Manager at University Medical Center, says she's proof Project Arriba works.

Eight years ago, she was a cashier, earning minimum wage, trying to support her four children. Now, she manages a unit of about 90 people at UMC.

"I am an example on return of investment on what funding can do for low income families. Before I was on government assistance. Now I own my own home. Pay property taxes, I'm able to send my children to school. I'm able to give back to my community," said Ortiz.

Project Arriba is a non-profit that helps low income people go to college and find good paying jobs in nursing, education and IT.

On Tuesday, the El Paso City Council voted to give Project Arriba $1.5 million over the next five years.

That amounts to $300,000 a year. The money comes with two conditions: the non-profit has to continue demonstrating success metrics and the city has the right to audit.

The program serves 300 people a year and it costs $5,500 per person. Project Arriba's annual budget is $1.1 million and about $132,000 goes toward administrative costs, such as staff salary.

"We're getting people into really great jobs, not just any job. In fact, last year, the average wages of the people we graduated is over $43,000 a year," said Project Arriba CEO Roman Ortiz.

In 2010, UTEP did an independent study. It found that for every dollar invested in Project Arriba there's $26 put into the El Paso economy. That's because the participants make more money, spend more money and pay more taxes.

This year the city is giving them money from another pot of money, instead of the general fund. The city is using cash from impact fees that utilities pay the city.

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