San Antonio’s job-training nonprofit Project Quest is helping people increase their earning capacity and improve their lives with support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas.
Established in 1992 after the closure of a Levi Strauss factory, Project Quest provides career coaching and tuition, transportation and food assistance to prepare adults for better-paying and more highly skilled jobs. Many participants enroll in local community colleges and schools to earn degrees in health care, nursing and information technology. Others get training to become HVAC technicians, commercial truck drivers and welders.
“We work with adults who are doing life and have outgrown that life,” including those who have been justice involved, says Francisco Martinez, Project Quests’ community partnership director. “We want to help them create a better life for themselves and their community.”
With help from a $25,000 BCBSTX Blue Impact℠ grant, the nonprofit is helping about 2,500 people annually get the skills they need to increase their wages, better support their families and buy homes. Project Quest is among several BCBSTX grant recipients statewide working to address social determinants of health, including nutrition, physical activity and economic opportunity and stability.
“For decades, we have worked in close collaboration with local community organizations and partners, leveraging their knowledge, experience and talents on a local level to help support healthier communities,” says Sheena Payne, BCBSTX community investments director. “We’re committed to sustainable solutions with community partners to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those who need it most and to lay the groundwork for economic empowerment.”
The average age of Project Quest participants is 30. Two-thirds are women, and more than 60 percent are Hispanic. Participants spend about 18 months in the program, depending on career path, and Project Quest spends roughly $11,000 per trainee, which can include child care.
“We’re serving that individual as well as helping the whole family get to a place of opportunity so they can confidently provide for the family for generations to come,” says Martinez, adding Project Quest graduates see wage increases as much as 200%.
A nine-year study by the Economic Mobility Corporation comparing a group of people who participated in Project Quest with a group who did not showed Quest graduates earned $5,000 more annually.
Success stories include that of a 30-year-old single mother who became a registered nurse and homeowner after years of working as a waitress and bartender while living in her childhood bedroom. Another graduate, a single father and emergency medical technician, became a nurse and works as a CPR instructor.
“We help inspire folks by providing hope, dignity and empowerment so they can develop belief in themselves,” Martinez says. “The outcome is priceless.”