How has Delia's personal experience fueled her passion to help others in the Lehigh Valley? By assisting low-income families in helping them find resources for a better way of life.
In 2013, the federal poverty threshold for a family of four was $23,624: that’s two adults and two children living on less than $24k a year. Analysts suggest that a family of four should earn twice that amount to afford basic goods and services such as electric, rent and food. According to the United States Census Bureau, over 42,000 people in Lehigh County alone are currently at poverty level. (United States Census Bureau (2013)).
What does this all mean? There are many people in the area who need help.
Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, Inc. (CACLV) is a nonprofit agency that dedicates its time and resources to advocate for the people and neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley. They are the conscience that seeks justice for people at poverty level, helping each and every individual pursue opportunities and creating neighborhoods that are economically self-sustainable.
Delia Marrero, Wescoe student, CACLV advocate and employee, has a passion for those in need. A few short years ago she was one of those people. At the young age of 19, Delia was a single parent to two little ones and on welfare. Wanting a better life with more opportunity, in 2005 Delia enrolled at Northampton Community College (NCC) after conversing with a caseworker at the Department of Public Welfare (DPW). It was suggested that she look into New Choices, a program that provides free classes for individuals in a transitional period, such as single parents, displaced homemakers and dislocated workers. The program includes career development, computer classes and training.
It was during this time Delia met Maryann Haytmanek, director of the New Choices program and soon to be Mentor. “It was clear to me that Delia was very bright,” says Maryann. “She caught on to all topics that we discussed quickly. She had a developed insight into the human condition and even with the challenges associated with being a single parent, she had a strong desire to finish college.”
Delia’s curiosity led her to research welfare and government regulations related to post-secondary education attendance and eventually she became more interested in policy discussions and decisions regarding regulations that affect low-income families. “We jumped at the chance to have Delia work as our Student Assistant, first as a work/study student and then as a part-time staff member who served as our office assistant,” says Maryann. “Not only did she perform her clerical duties but she was also an excellent mentor for new students who became part of our KEYS program.”
Delia worked hard to secure scholarships for her education, which is a tribute to her academic excellence and determination. “We share her successes regularly with our participants,” says Maryann. In addition to taking classes, raising her family, and working at NCC, Delia also became one of the first participants to graduate from the newly established KEYS program (Pennsylvania Keystone Education Yields Success). The KEYS program assists parents who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits, and are in a certificate or degree program at one of Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges. KEYS began as a response to growing research that people who earn a certificate or degree are better able to find jobs with family-sustaining wages, benefits, and opportunities for advancement. According to CLASP (www.CLASP.org), an organization that develops and promotes new ideas and directly assists government and advocates successful strategies that deliver results for all people, data shows the average hourly salary of KEYS graduates is $14.77/hour compared to under $8/hour for current participants in other DPW programs.
In 2009 Delia graduated from NCC with a degree in paralegal studies. She continued to work at NCC, and in 2013 she enrolled at the Wescoe School to begin work on a bachelor’s degree. Delia is currently an English major, with minors in history and political science. Her passion is working with low-income families, helping them find resources and encouraging them to better themselves. Her position at CACLV is Weatherization Representative.
Weatherization provides low-income clients with energy-reducing options for free. This ultimately helps clients to keep their energy bills low by keeping their homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Delia’s career goal is to continue working with low-income families as she has found her calling in the non-profit sector. She wants to make a difference and help others as she was once helped. “I have learned that things don’t always work out like you plan. My only goal now is help others in need,” says Delia.
For more information about the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 484-664-3300.