LatinaLista -- On a busy Dallas street corner, in the heart of a neighborhood where Spanish is heard as often as English, a converted 7-11 serves as the home of the latest test site for a new national pilot program that teaches "life skills" to Latina immigrant women -- for free.
Christened Entre Comadres, the program is a collaboration between the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Procter & Gamble (P&G) brands Tide and Downy.
Dallas is one of three locations for a new national pilot program created through a partnership between P&G and LULAC aimed at specifically serving immigrant women.
Women accepted into the program are taught English and basic computer literacy. Though the Dallas location, which is the third and final pilot site to launch after Houston and Los Angeles, has only been conducting classes for two weeks, there is already a waiting list.
Edward Sanchez, computer lab coordinator and one of the main instructors of the Entre Comadres program, said, "English is our class that has the highest demand. There are 320 people on the waiting list and we still get about 30 calls a day from people about the program."
Holding four classes a day with a limit of ten students each, the program runs classes for eight weeks at a time. Most of the students are over the age of 35 and know very basic English, said Sanchez. However, while it's geared to immigrant women, men and other community members who apply won't be turned away.
Sanchez sees the program as being revolutionary in teaching basic life skills to a population who exhibit "an eagerness to learn and fully engage with the lessons."
Renato de los Santos, director of LULAC's National Educational Service Center (LNESC), where Entre Comadres is housed, sees the program as a great benefit to the people it serves.
"We are able to offer these classes for free and the demand is so great," said de los Santos. "Citizenship classes are very expensive and in the Dallas area we have over 700,000 permanent residents who need to take this class and haven't done so partly because of cost."
Though citizenship classes are provided by LULAC, de los Santos admits he would like to see Entre Comadres expand further in the Dallas region. He said that P&G is in talks to see what the next steps would be.
For their part, P&G officials say they have a very simple reason for creating the Entre Comadres program.
"We recognize that moving to a new place is stressful and requires one to learn new skills in order to have the best possible opportunity to succeed," said Alita Vegas, P&G multicultural marketing director. "Latinas play a tremendous role as the gatekeepers and center of their families and we know that helping them is critical for the benefit of the community."