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Phoenix Housing Department Scores $452,000 Grant To Help Kids In Public Housing Go To College

The city of Phoenix Housing Department will receive a $452,000 grant to give low-income youth the chance to go to college. The money will come from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development. 

The plan is to use the money to hire three “education navigators, ” case workers who will work one-on-one with 15- to 20-year-olds who live in public housing to help them earn a college degree.

William Emerson is the city’s deputy housing director. He says other housing programs use education navigators and the hope is to see similar success.

"For example, our Matthew Henson community in the Central City area, we had 69 percent of the youth in that program attend post-secondary program,"  Emerson said. "At a different site, Krohn West, another community in central Phoenix, 70 percent attended post-secondary education."

The key is bringing the caseworkers to the kids. Zona Pacheco is also with the city's housing department.

"Our housing kids have a lot of difficulty getting to and from different places particularly with transportation," she said. "Most of our families don’t have reliable transportation. But we will have the case managers, the education navigators, on site working with the kids, and engaging with them."

Pacheco says 300 households will be served with the grant. She says in other programs where education navigators were present, a high percentage of kids went on to attend post-secondary school. Education navigators help with things like college applications and financial aid paperwork. 

KJZZ senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.