Julio Ortiz was a teacher in Guatamala before he immigrated to the U.S. to provide a better life for his family. So he means what he says when he talks about the importance of a good education for his children.
The older two of his four children are in elementary school, and the first thing he says about Rodrigo and Yosmeri is “They’re good students.”
Julio’s wife Juana is a student as well. She’s currently working on improving her English skills through Whatcom Community College’s ESL program. With a baby and a toddler to care for, she has to stay home. But if she is to work at some point in the future, English is key to getting a decent job, so Julio is supportive of Juana’s decision to study. “(Studying English) is the first thing I did when I got here,” he says.
Julio would like to take classes himself to further improve his English, and perhaps pursue the credentials he would need to resume his career as a teacher here. But since he now works 60 hours a week on a berry farm for little more than minimum wage, he has neither the time nor the money to think about his own education. Yet.
In the Habitat home that Julio will soon begin helping to build in Birch Bay for his family, he will have significantly lower monthly housing costs – perhaps low enough that he can afford to think about pursuing his dream of more education and a better career.
Regardless of what plans Julio makes for himself in the future, his children will benefit from finally having adequate room to play and study. The relationship between housing and childrens’ educational success is well-documented. Better health and nutrition, more disposable income for school supplies and extra-curricular activities, a stable environment that allows kids to stay in the same school district, are benefits of safe, decent, affordable housing that can help students succeed in school. And when parents own their home, it gives their kids even more of an edge. Children of homeowners are 25%1 more likely to graduate high school, and 116%2 more likely to finish college than their peers in rental housing.
For Julio Ortiz, those are encouraging statistics.
Blog Post Statistics:
1 & 2: Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio/Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, April 2003. http://www.habitatsa.org/about/benefits.aspx