Latinos Initiative in Lancaster County

Written by Scott Sheely.


Designed to Move the Needle and Eliminate Barriers for the Latino Community Strategies and Action Plans


Implement and utilize a network for informing the Latino community of important information by increasing utilization of the Spanish language radio station, by enhancing the usage of La Voz Hispana, by developing a community web site for announcements, and by using the schools, community health centers, and community-based organizations as information distribution hubs with a central point of contact for the network (1)

Make the annual parade sponsored by the Puerto Rican Committee of Lancaster a focal point for sharing Latino culture with the broader Lancaster County Community (2)

Rally around the Latino Community celebration by the Lancaster County Drug and Alcohol Council in the spring as a primary opportunity for organizations and groups to engage the Latino community (3)


Assess the adequacy of the funding of services that support Latino families, including but not limited to, child care, transportation, domestic violence, medical and dental services, drug and alcohol, and mental health and mental retardation…and then advocate for filling the gaps from public and private sources (County of Lancaster) (4)

Survey service providers to gather information on hours of service and availability of Spanish-speaking staff (United Way) (5)

Maximize the resources of the public welfare system by developing a broader network of community partners to move more Latino families toward self-sufficiency (County Assistance Office) (6)

Support regular problem-solving sessions for case managers to bring client issues, concerns, and needs directly to the public system (County Assistance Office, Adult Probation and Parole Services, CareerLink, Red Rose Transit Authority) (7)

Encourage more general information sharing for the community as a whole through the Cross Problems Group (CAO, APPS, CareerLink, Red Rose, United Way) (8)

Make medical and dental care supported by good nutrition a priority for families at risk in the Latino community with free dental assessments and treatment, medical screenings, and well-baby care coordinated by Southeast Lancaster Health Services and supported by public and private sources (Lancaster County Community Foundation, St. Joseph Health Ministries Foundation, Lancaster Osteopathic Foundation) (9)


Connect with focus groups of current or potential users at CareerLink, SACA, HACC, Stevens, Arbor, IU-13, and other youth providers to ascertain the consumers’ perspective on what would be most helpful in improving their situation (WIB, SACA, other community-based providers, other education providers) (10)

Conduct an audit of community-based and educational programs to evaluate how well they bring a welcoming and culturally-sensitive attitude to their work with the Latino community (SHRM) (11)

In fall 2008, sponsor a Summit for employers to come together to share best practice ideas about better ways to incorporate the Latino workforce into entry-level jobs and to move Latino workers up career ladders within companies (Chamber, WIB) (12)

Enhance the work of the PA CareerLink of Lancaster County by making the Ready2Work program the basis of workforce readiness training and the foundation for an aggressive program of skill training supported by organizations in the community that replicate the program (using SACA as a model) and complement it with mentoring and case management (WIB, SACA, Chamber, community-based organizations) (13)

Bring other successful skill training programs such as YouthBuild, PA Conservation Corps, Construction 101, Printing 101, and others to scale by doubling their graduates within one year (WIB) (14)

Support the efforts of Harrisburg Area Community College, Stevens College of Technology, and the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center to make college more accessible to Latino learners, particularly in Lancaster City (SACA, Chamber, City of Lancaster, County of Lancaster, community-based organizations) (15)

Explore the development of a faith and community-based leadership program for Latinos that provides incumbent Latino workers with the skill and knowledge that they need to move into supervisory and management roles in business (Lancaster County Community Foundation, Millersville University, Chamber, Council of Churches) (16)

Develop a Resource Guide for jobseekers and business that is written in English and Spanish and that provides an exhaustive list of community-based, education-based, and business-based resources as well as an explanation of how to access them (WIB, Chamber, SHRM, SACA) (17)

Explore the expansion of the Career Cruising initiative in the K-12 system as a career education tool to faith and community-based organization in the Latino community (Youth Council, LCCTC, IU-13, Council of Churches) (18)

Drop Out

From the Education Community

Develop and implement a pilot peer mentor program in the School District of Lancaster that includes a process for identifying at-risk students, mapping of existing mentor programs in the District and the community, and the use of students as mentors (School District of Lancaster) (19)

Work with a team of administrators and teachers to develop a District-side cultural competency awareness training for District faculty and staff on an on-going basis (School District of Lancaster) (20)

Plan and implement in spring 2008 a process for hearing from Latino students their issues and concerns about their academic and extracurricular lives that can be formally recorded and shared with school personnel and community-service providers (School District of Lancaster) (21)

In cooperation with local institutions of higher education, develop model lessons that stress “rigor and relevance (especially for the Latino community)”, using active learning, experiential learning, hands-on and authentic experiences (School District of Lancaster, HACC, LCCTC, Stevens, Millersville University) (22)

Integrate PA K-12 Career and Work Standards into the District curriculum in partnership with the County projects that have developed around the Pathways process (School District of Lancaster, Youth Council) (23)

Create paid “parent coordinator” positions throughout the District to collaborate with “neighborhood ambassadors to assist young people and parents in navigating school services and programs (School District of Lancaster) (24)

From the Business and Social Service Communities

Intentionally and aggressively recruit more bi-lingual and bi-cultural teachers and staff (School District of Lancaster) (25)

Evaluate the plethora of drop-out prevention programs in the School District of Lancaster to ascertain their efficacy and usefulness (School District of Lancaster) (26)

Support the LaAcademia Charter School as an alternative educational setting for Latino young people (School District of Lancaster) (27)

Pair every elementary and middle school in the School District of Lancaster with 4-5 businesses for the purpose of increasing attendance, decreasing the threat of dropping out, bringing business people into the classroom to increase skills, and providing information on careers to students and parents in cooperation with the administration, faculty, and parents of the school (School District of Lancaster, Lancaster Chamber, WIB, School and Community Network, Junior Achievement) (28)

  • Implement a mentoring program that works following the Big Brothers, Big Sisters model but with a strong emphasis on supporting the educational needs of the Latino children
  • Sponsor business open houses on a regular basis for parents and students of middle school students in the School District of Lancaster Implement a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program for middle school students in the School District of Lancaster (School District of Lancaster, Youth Council) (29)

Bring a branch of the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center into the School District of Lancaster (School District of Lancaster, Lancaster County Career and Technology Center) (30)

Expand the Career Camps sponsored by the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board, the School District of Lancaster, and the Lancaster County Career and Technology Center to involve more people, to operate for more than one week, and to reach older students with a focus on the Latino community (WIB, School District of Lancaster, LCCTC, Chamber) (31)

Enhance the work of the School and Community Network as a safe haven for children through the City after-school and in the evenings (School District of Lancaster, local businesses and foundations) (32)

Work with employers of young people to develop a Code of Ethics whereby the business agrees to not hire people who have left school and to assure that young people attend school on the day that they come to work (Lancaster Chamber, Youth Council) (33)

Implement an aggressive internship program that finds jobs for kids that need to work while in school, gives credit for the experience, and supports them and the employer while employed (Lancaster Chamber, Youth Council) (34)

Raise the legal age to drop out to 18 (Chamber, local elected officials) (35)

Criminal Justice

Gather together youth-serving agencies to consider ways to identify at-risk children earlier (with a focus on families where a parent is or has been in jail as significantly more at risk) with an eye to better service planning for the focus group (36)

Assemble a focus group of inmates/ex-offenders to better understand the self-perceived needs of Latino people who are involved in the criminal justice system (RMO) (37)

Examine the way that parenting skill training is provided in the Latino community…who does it, how and when does it happen, is it voluntary or involuntary, does it happen in the home or outside…and explore what it would take to make it better coordinated, better funded, and more accessible with no waiting lists (38)

Inventory all of the after-school and summer programs that exist in the City in an effort to leverage resources for a more comprehensive program of offerings for at-risk kids and families (Youth Council) (39)

Encourage the coordination of existing programs of gang suppression and community development for intervention strategies that engage other community systems and come to useful scale (PA and federal Weed and Seed, 222 Gang Initiative) (40)

Broaden sentencing options focusing on habilitation and rehabilitation/diversion including problem-solving courts, halfway houses and other housing options, longer-term treatment options, and a day report/service center (County of Lancaster) (41)

Begin a dialogue between the Prison, Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole Services, and the Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization to make re-entry management planning as people leave the prison a reality (County of Lancaster, LCP, APPS, RMO) (42)

Take stock of existing drug avoidance and education programs that are directed to the Latino community to be sure that they speak to local needs and provide services with an awareness of Latino culture (43)


Encourage employers to expand programs to assist employees to buy housing within the County using models pioneered by Lancaster General Hospital and Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster Chamber) (44)

Link together all of the information (websites, Internet resources, and written materials) for new homeowners, making transparent to interested parties the process and the resources for buying and maintaining a home and providing the information in English and Spanish using communication resources (libraries, churches, schools, Spanish language media) that are accessible to all (local businesses and foundations) (45)

Support an expansion of the delivery of basic financial literacy programs and first-time homeowner courses and counseling before and after purchase in multiple locations around Lancaster County (County of Lancaster and Lancaster Housing Opportunities Partnership) (46)

Expand the capacity of community-based programs that encourage homeownership (LHOP, SACA, CAP, Tabor, Inner City Group, and others) to double the number of persons served and to increase by 100 families the number currently served (County of Lancaster) (47)

Collectively support the work of local housing development initiatives to expand the number of housing and rental units for low and moderate income people throughout Lancaster County (Housing Coalition, Housing Development Corporation, Lancaster Housing Opportunities Partnership, County and City housing and redevelopment authorities, SACA, Habitat for Humanity) (48)

  • Advocate for increased support for public housing programs that are administered by non-profit organizations (local elected officials);
  • Increase incentives for for-profit developers to include affordable housing in larger housing projects (local municipal officials);
  • Work with City and County officials, real estate professionals, lenders, and community-based housing providers to find ways to put properties that have been condemned or foreclosed upon back on the market and available for purchase by individuals and families who are first-time and/or low-income buyers
    • Support changes in legislation to allow condemned houses to get on the market faster (City of Lancaster, County of Lancaster);
    • Reach out to banks and other lenders who have foreclosure lists to facilitate those properties getting back on the market faster (City of Lancaster, County of Lancaster)


Late in the fall of 2005, the Lancaster County Community Foundation and a group of Latina leaders approached the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board about being the sponsor of an in-depth study that would profile the Latino community in Lancaster County with the idea that the findings would eventually lead to systems change that would benefit the community. The Board accepted the challenge and raised over $60,000 to start the project with the generous support of the Foundation, LIVE, Fulton Bank, the Alcoa Foundation, and the Board.

In hiring Alegre Research, it asked its primary researchers, Lillian Escobar-Haskins and George Haskins, to tell the story of Latinos in Lancaster County not only with statistics and quantitative measures but also with stories from the community coming out of interviews and focus groups.

What emerged was a comprehensive telling of the story of the Latino community including the first written history of the first Latinos that came to Lancaster County in the 1940s. What also emerged was five very clear barriers that Latino people face which continue to impede their progress in becoming a part of the Lancaster community. They included the high number of young people dropping out of high school, the high level of poverty among female head of households, the high level involvement of Latino young men with the criminal justice system, the low level of home ownership, and the high degree of underemployment among Latino workers.

When the report was released in December 2007 (see sidebar on left to download a copy), hundreds of Lancaster County residents signed up and participated in five brainstorming groups to develop Action Plans to address the barriers and to prioritize the investment of community assets where needed. The groups developed nearly 50 Action Plans over the course of their deliberations. These Plans were announced in May 2008 with the promise that interested parties would reassemble near the end of the year to report on progress and the work yet to be done.