Esperanza Encourages Communities to “Buy Their Pond”
Opportunity Nation is proud of its diverse multi-sector coalition, which is committed to expanding opportunity and economic mobility for all Americans. In the weeks and months ahead, coalition organizations will be featured here on our blog to showcase the impact they make every day and highlight why they are a part of this campaign. Below you can learn more about the work of our partner Esperanza, whose broad reach is breaking down barriers to opportunity in communities across the country.
We all know the famous expression that talks about giving a man a fish, versus teaching him to fish. Most people think that the ultimate advantage we can provide to poor people is to teach them to fish, proverbially speaking. At Esperanza, we go one significant and crucial step further. Esperanza’s founder and President, the Reverend Luis Cortés Jr., believes that the best approach is for community members and nonprofit organizations to buy the pond. When we own the pond, we have assets that give the community value on multiple levels, beyond just the basic access to services that meet their needs. We not only control the quality of the opportunities and services in our neighborhood, we also control our economic future to a greater degree.
Since 1987, Esperanza has been helping the Hunting Park neighborhood in Philadelphia to own the pond and build its assets. We started by building affordable housing in vacant lots, and purchasing, renovating, and renting or selling the vacant homes in our neighborhood. To respond to community economic need, we took the lead on bringing new businesses to the neighborhood, including a Rite Aid drug store that, today, is one of the most profitable locations for the retail chain in the state of Pennsylvania. We own and develop a 10-acre campus and additional facilities in the near vicinity that give us significant potential to continue to grow.
In 2000, Reverend Cortés decided to “own the pond” relative to our community’s education challenges, and founded both Esperanza Academy Charter High School and Esperanza College (a fully accredited, two-year Associate’s degree-awarding branch campus of Eastern University). These institutions graduate 95% and 65% of their students, respectively, consistently maintaining outcomes that are far higher than national and state averages with a minority student body. Today, our community development efforts are not only continuously expanding, but we have become the premiere Hispanic evangelical network in the country, operating as capacity builders and advocates on a national scale through our network of over 12,000 clergy and community leaders and helping other Hispanic communities throughout the United States to own their pond.
As we work with Opportunity Nation and the many important members of the coalition, we are hopeful that this movement will bring a greater weight, and more powerful policy advocacy, to the concept of supporting communities to own their pond, in whatever form that may take.
Read more about Esperanza’s work at www.esperanza.us.