U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is celebrating $ 500,000 of federal funding for the Berks Tec Centro

Mailer Hernandez had big plans when she immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, but there was an obstacle in her way.

Hernandez did not speak English, and this meant that the fashion designer’s dream of opening his own store would be difficult to realize. She turned to Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation for help.

Through the Berks Tec Centro, a technical center that provides workforce development and adult education services, she enrolled in a program to study English as a Second Language.

It was a success.

On Monday morning, Hernandez addressed a crowd gathered inside the Tec Centro.

“I finally learned English,” she said, adding that improving her English gave her the confidence to start her own business. “I feel more comfortable with the British.”

Hernandez’s story is the kind of success that Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation hopes to repeat over and over again at Tec Centro. And it’s a kind of victory that has earned the facility some help from the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey visited Tec Centro on Monday to mark the $ 500,000 in direct federal funding the center receives under a $ 1.7 trillion federal budget signed by President Joe Biden in March.

The budget provided funding for specific projects in the United States, including several in Berks County. $ 500,000 for Tec Centro is part of the total $ 6.9 million is provided for Berks projects.

The money received by Tec Centro will allow for some major upgrades to the 450 S. Sixth St. CEO Darlene Garcia said it will be used to repair the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, to upgrade the institution’s electrical system and to renovate some of the floors in the center.

Casey called federal funding an investment in the future, which he proudly supports.

“It’s a word, it’s an investment,” he said. “It’s an investment in the people of this community.”

Casey said investing in people through supporting a place like Tec Centro is an American idea, giving people the opportunity to gain the skills they need to succeed. And this, he said, will greatly help the economy prosper.

“We have one goal, we have to have one,” he said. “To have the number one workforce in the world.”

Casey said that while funding for Tec Centro is a sign that the federal government is supporting their mission, such efforts require continued support. He said the allocation of federal dollars for labor development is something he will continue to pursue.

“It will be critical,” he said.

Any financial assistance that the federal government can provide is very welcome, said Carlos Grauper, CEO of Berks Latino Workforce Development Corporation.

Graper said Tec Centro has a clear goal – to help lift 39% of Berks’ Latinos living below the poverty line. And having the resources to achieve that goal is vital.

“We are determined not to pass on this catastrophic socio-economic situation to the next generation,” he said, adding that the problem would not go away on its own. “It’s going to be a long way, we know it’s tricky.”

Graper thanked the senator for being willing to invest in Tec Centro so early on his path, saying many people will quickly jump on his step if the effort succeeds.

“Heroes are the people who jump first,” he said.


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