Lois Fortez | Special Guest Blog

As a college student from humble means, I believe in the value of a quality education to transform a life.  I’m a graduating senior at UNLV studying Business Economics, and I am interning here at UWSN with the Social Innovation team. I am impressed by the quality of the people and programs here, and I get to add to it in a meaningful way. I’m thrilled that I am now contributing to a project aimed at improving academic achievement among the most economically vulnerable in town. I have gotten so much more from this internship than I ever expected, and I will take the skills that I have learned here and the heart for the community I have seen to wherever I land after graduation. 

My first project was researching studies of academic achievement, and I was disheartened but not surprised to see that Clark County doesn’t perform well compared to the rest of the nation. In the Las Vegas Valley, household income strongly contributes to the academic success of students. This is very informative for explaining our overall lagging academic achievement because more than half of all elementary students in the Las Vegas Valley are close to or below the poverty line.

The encouraging news is that there is research suggesting high quality preschool child care can lead to higher academic achievement. An example is a cost-benefit analysis by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, found here

We are designing a program to provide this across Southern Nevada. The program, Neighborhood Network, will offer quality child care microfranchise businesses to unlicensed child care providers. My part includes research and analysis of the effect of child care availability on elementary academic achievement here in Clark County. 

My hope is our microfranchise program will increase academic success both by increasing the household income of families who become child care micro-business owners and also by offering more quality child care in the valley. I’m excited to see the results of the program and to be a part of its design, especially at UWSN, where data analysis and best practices from around the world are used to innovate solutions to local problems, and we measure and study the results to ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness in the design and implementation of projects.

This experience has stretched my analytical abilities, and I use the skills I am learning in economics and business classes to study and present data. Even better than the relevance to my schooling is the fact that the child care program I’m currently helping design is going to pull people out of poverty while boosting the academic quality of child care provided to low income children. Generational poverty is being targeted at two age levels, and I get to be a part of it. You can’t find a more fulfilling internship than that!