April/May Newsletter 2024

This Newsletter’s Main Topics

ELP-1 & GED Spring Graduation 

Parent Empowerment Services’ New Arlington Graduates

Edu-Futuro’s COVID Vaccination Campaign

AmeriCorps VISTA Corner

Edu-Futuro’s DoMore24 Campaign

Financial Tips : What’s a Reverse Mortgage?

Health & Wellness: Our Teens in Danger- Chemicals in Vapes Highly Toxic When Heated


Edu-Futuro Celebrates Spring
Graduation for Students & Parents

On Saturday, May 25, 2024, Edu-Futuro celebrated a major accomplishment for hundreds of hard-working students and parents — graduation from our Emerging Leaders Program for youth, as well as our year-long GED Program for adults seeking a high school equivalency credential. Approximately 275 students, family members, and Edu-Futuro staff attended the event, which was held at Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, Va. 

A total of 122 high school students from six different Northern Virginia high schools graduated from one of the three ELP-I sessions conducted by Edu-Futuro each year in the fall, spring, and summer. The program is a six-week college readiness workshop series offered to youth in grades 9-11 that develops professional skills, demonstrates that college is a reachable goal, and builds self-confidence among immigrant and Latino students. Edu-Futuro’s ELP-I youth participate in training workshops on such topics as resume preparation, job interviews, networking, financial literacy, public speaking, and the college application process. Students are also matched with mentors, and participate in speech and essay competitions that offer a total of $6,000 in scholarship prizes throughout the year. 

At the ELP-I Spring 2024 celebration, parents and family members proudly watched as each graduating student walked on stage, and received a diploma from Executive Director, Jorge Figueredo, and the committed group of Edu-Futuro AmeriCorps members who diligently worked with our ELP-I participants throughout the length of the course. For the spring session, Edu-Futuro conducted ELP-I sessions at: Washington-Liberty High School and Wakefield High School in Arlington; Justice High School, John Lewis High School, and Annandale High School in Fairfax; and Freedom High School in Prince William County.

“The ELP-I Spring 2024 season was exceptional. We saw a record-high number of students attending in two schools since the COVID pandemic, and our youth had the opportunity to learn about college paths and requirements, as well as practice some of the steps they will face when applying for colleges and scholarships,” said Susana Carpio, Edu-Futuro’s Youth Programs Team Lead. ”Student engagement was notably higher this season, thanks to the increased experience and knowledge of this year’s AmeriCorps cohort. The AmeriCorps members mentored the students with a genuine passion to empower them, drawing on lessons learned from previous ELP-I sessions.”

On May 25, Edu-Futuro also graduated 97 GED students who worked for a full year to complete a comprehensive program that helps participants earn the equivalent of a high school diploma through four quarterly modules: Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Sciences. Our GED classes met virtually three times per week, while group and individual mentorship sessions were conducted four times each week.  

Like our ELP-I students, every GED graduate attending the Edu-Futuro event also had the opportunity to walk on the Washington-Liberty stage to receive their diploma from Executive Director, Jorge Figueredo, and from our Adult Basic Ed Instructor/GED Lead, Alejandro Castillo, who led the GED classes since the program launched in June 2023. In one of the most moving moments of the graduation, a group of GED graduates gathered on stage to give Alejandro a special gift, and to thank him for his dedication to their education, and to their efforts to improve their lives in the U.S.

GED student, Ivin Castro, said the following after giving Alejandro his gift: “Teacher, speaking from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you first and also Edu-Futuro, because these small achievements that make a big difference were thanks to all the knowledge you imparted to us. I had no idea where to get the information, and you made it accessible to us. Thank you because I am the result of the explanations I received from you, and from completing all the guides you sent us. Once again, thank you!”

“I am immensely proud of our GED graduates for their unwavering determination and resilience,” said Alejandro. “Watching them overcome challenges and grow, both academically and personally throughout a whole year, has been truly inspiring. This is just the beginning of their bright futures.”

For more information on Edu-Futuro’s Emerging Leaders Program, please contact Susana Carpio, Youth Programs Team Lead, at susanacarpio@edu-futuro.org. For more information on Edu-Futuro’s GED Program, please contact Alejandro Castillo, Adult Basic Ed Instructor/GED Lead, at acastillo@Edu-Futuro.org. Edu-Futuro’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is supported in part by a grant from the Verizon Foundation.


Pictured: Our Padres Comprometidos class at Mason Crest Elementary School in Fairfax County.

Parent Empowerment Services Honors New Graduates in Arlington

Edu-Futuro’s Parent Empowerment Services (PES) recently concluded annual spring sessions in Fairfax, Arlington, and Alexandria, welcoming nearly 200 new graduates of our main four parenting courses — Strengthening Families, Padres Comprometidos (Committed Parents), Participa en Mi Educacion (Participate in My Education), and Families Reunite. Each of the programs bring parents and children together in workshops focused on such goals as improving family communication, preventing unhealthy behaviors, and learning to navigate the U.S. school system. The PES courses are offered free of charge, and are conducted in both Spanish and English, with the spring sessions providing free childcare services to more than 200 children in order to help parents attend their classes.

“We are very grateful to our program facilitators and to the staff of Arlington and Fairfax public schools because their strong commitment has been the main reason that we have experienced a significant increase in program participation and attendance this past year,” said Edu-Futuro Manager of Programs, Dulce Oliveros. “For example, thanks to the help of Family Liaison, Ana Maxey, PES workshops in Fairfax collectively served 81 parents and 40 children through programs and childcare services hosted at Mason Crest Elementary School and Katherine Johnson Middle School. We also received invaluable help from other wonderful Family Liaisons: Martha Heredia at Wakefield High School Arlington; Patrizia Gestro at Barrett Elementary School in Arlington; and Solangie McPherson at Coates Elementary School in Fairfax.”

Many families shared their gratitude for feeling more equipped to support their children. “God bless you! I hope that you can continue to help more parents because I know that there are so many first-time mothers and fathers who need this information,” said Yulisa Sánchez, an Arlington County parent who graduated from Participa en Mi Educaciόn. “I had zero information about the educational system here in the U.S. I have a five-year-old child, and as a parent, I thought that my main responsibility was just to get him to the school. Now, I understand that I need to do much more to help with his education. My message to other parents is that, even though you may be tired after work, it is very important for you to participate in these classes because you will learn a great deal.”

All of Edu-Futuro’s PES workshops are held throughout the year. For more information on registration, please contact our Manager of Programs, Dulce Oliveros, at dulceoliveros@edu-futuro.org.


Edu-Futuro COVID Vaccination Campaign
Reaches Thousands of Families on Telemundo 44

A 30-second public service message produced by Edu-Futuro encouraging Latino families to protect their health by getting vaccinated against COVID-19 reached thousands of viewers across the Washington metropolitan area through the Spanish-language television station, Telemundo 44. Part of Edu-Futuro’s COVID-19 prevention partnership with the CDC Foundation, the Mother’s Day-themed television spot was broadcast nearly 160 times during the month of May by Telemundo 44, delivering more than 306,000 on-air impressions among viewers aged 25-54 in the capital area, and an additional 21,631 impressions to Northern Virginia Latino viewers via online streaming. 

The television message featured a Latino mother talking about the importance of the COVID vaccine, as well as the CDC’s Bridge Access Program, which offers free COVID vaccines to individuals without health insurance. In addition to the main character of the mother, the spot featured her two children and her father, in order to emphasize the importance of protecting the health of the entire family. Written and produced by Edu-Futuro Communications & Programs Manager, Eduardo López, the television public awareness spot was directed and edited by Nestor Bravo of Bravo Films. The main role of the mother was played by Claudia Morcelo-Pellegrino, who coincidentally, works as the Community Outreach & Engagement Manager for the Fairfax County Health Department.

The 30-second television message is one element of Edu-Futuro’s COVID-19 public awareness campaign produced for the past three years with the support of the CDC Foundation. In addition to the television spot, Edu-Futuro has produced and broadcast multiple Línea Directa public service television programs focusing on COVID-19 prevention that have featured numerous doctors, psychologists, community leaders, and elected officials. 

Línea Directa airs throughout the Washington area every Saturday morning, at 11:00 a.m., on Telemundo 44. The program has been on the air since 1990, and is one of the nation’s longest-running television programs dedicated to public awareness and public service. For more information on Línea Directa, please contact Eduardo López, our Communications & Programs Manager, at eduardo@edu-futuro.org.


AmeriCorps VISTA Corner


Pictured: Terragan Brouk, Applied Community and Economic Development Fellow

This year, Edu-Futuro will be receiving the invaluable help of six AmeriCorps VISTA members who will play critical roles in a variety of capacity-building projects, including the updating of our beneficiary database, conducting research on funding opportunities, and developing brand-new program curricula for students and parents. Going forward, we will be highlighting the work of our VISTA members in the Edu-Futuro newsletter. This month, we begin with Terragan Brouk, who has been working with our organization for nearly a year as our Applied Community and Economic Development Fellow from the Stevenson Center at Illinois State University. Terragan took on the challenge of coordinating the recruitment of our VISTA members, and is largely responsible for getting the program off the ground.

“Throughout the past ten or so months, I’ve been working with Edu-Futuro on the successful recruitment and launch of our new AmeriCorps VISTA program,” said Terragan. “AmeriCorps VISTA is a service-oriented organization with the U.S. government, focused at tackling poverty in the many communities that make up our country. Edu-Futuro has demonstrated time and again, the needs of the Latino and immigrant communities here in northern-Virginia, particularly in youth development, parent empowerment, and workforce development. Our VISTA team is now working hard to support the organization serve its communities to the best of its ability. I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work with our new AmeriCorps VISTA members: Joy Harvey, Dana Villasenor, Dante Calfayan, Gabriel Sirak, Kaitlin Mays, and Mahid Sheikh!

Throughout his year as a Stevenson Center Fellow, Terragan has become an integral and highly valued member of the Edu-Futuro family. He shares one of his favorite memories at our organization: “I distinctly remember when Gabe, Dante, and I listened in and attended a virtual session with participants of the GED program. There were more than 70 students present, from young adults to older adults, all attentively listening. One student stood out to me, a woman wearing a chef’s uniform. I realized she was in the middle of her shift, in the kitchens! This one student was emblematic of the dedication to learning, and the lengths people are willing to go to advance their lives. All of those that attend Edu-Futuro’s programs, whether they know it or not, are part of a great tradition; bringing an invaluable education and impactful services to their families and communities. Powerful stuff!”

For more information on Edu-Futuro’s AmeriCorps VISTA program, please contact Joy Harvey, our VISTA Team Leader, at vistaleader@edu-futuro.org.



Edu-Futuro Participates in DoMore24 Online Fundraising Campaign

Edu-Futuro recently took part in this year’s DoMore24 Campaign, an online fundraising effort organized by the United Way of the National Capital Area (NCA). The DoMore24 Campaign stands as the premier 24-hour online fundraising initiative in the Washington region, connecting nonprofit organizations to generous donors who share a commitment to making a difference in their communities. DoMore24’s day-long fundraising event, this year held on May 15, helped Edu-Futuro to raise nearly $800 from individual online donations. 

Mariana Balgurevich, Edu-Futuro’s Volunteer Coordinator, led our participation in the DoMore24 Campaign, and she shared her deep appreciation for the support we received from our donors. “I was deeply touched by the generosity of our community, especially and by those individuals who know the struggles of our families. We would like to offer our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped to make this campaign successful!”

For more information on the DoMore24 Campaign, or to inquire about volunteer opportunities at Edu-Futuro, please contact Mariana Balgurevich, our Volunteer Coordinator, at volunteer@edu-futuro.org.


Financial Rights: What is a Reverse Mortgage? 

A Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), the most common type of reverse mortgage, is a special type of home loan only for homeowners who are 62 and older. The information below refers specifically to HECMs.

A reverse mortgage loan, like a traditional mortgage, allows homeowners to borrow money using their home as security for the loan. Also like a traditional mortgage, when you take out a reverse mortgage loan, the title to your home remains in your name. However, unlike a traditional mortgage, with a reverse mortgage loan, borrowers don’t make monthly mortgage payments. The loan is repaid when the borrower no longer lives in the home. Interest and fees are added to the loan balance each month and the balance grows. With a reverse mortgage loan, homeowners are required to pay property taxes and homeowners insurance, use the property as their principal residence, and keep their house in good condition.

How does a reverse mortgage get paid back?

With a reverse mortgage loan, the amount the homeowner owes to the lender goes up–not down–over time. This is because interest and fees are added to the loan balance each month. As your loan balance increases, your home equity decreases. A reverse mortgage loan is not free money. It is a loan where borrowed money + interest + fees each month = rising loan balance. The homeowners or their heirs will eventually have to pay back the loan, usually by selling the home.

How do I watch out for scams related to reverse mortgages?

Contractor scams — Beware of contractors who approach you about getting a reverse mortgage loan to pay for repairs to your homes. It may be a scam. Don’t let yourself be pressured into getting a reverse mortgage loan.

Scams targeting veterans — The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not offer any reverse mortgage loans. Some mortgage ads falsely promise veterans special deals, imply VA approval, or offer a “no-payment” reverse mortgage loan to attract older Americans desperate to stay in their homes.

How do I cancel a reverse mortgage using the right of rescission?

With most reverse mortgages, you have a three-day right to cancel a reverse mortgage. Within three business days after the loan is closed, you can cancel the deal for any reason, without penalty. This is known as your right of “rescission.” To cancel, you must notify the lender in writing. Send your letter by certified mail, and ask for a return receipt so that you have documentation of when you sent and when the lender received your cancellation notice. Keep copies of any communications between you and your lender. After you cancel, the lender has 20 days to return any money you’ve paid for the financing of the reverse mortgage loan. If you believe there is a reason to cancel the loan after the three-day period, seek legal help to see if you have the right to cancel.

Can anyone take out a reverse mortgage loan?

No. Home Equity Conversion Mortgages (HECMs), the most common type of reverse mortgage loan, are a special type of home loan available only to homeowners who are 62 and older.
Age is one requirement for a HECM. The other requirements include:

  • Your home must be your principal residence, meaning you live there the majority of the year.
  • You must either own your home outright or have a low mortgage balance. Owning your home outright means you do not have a mortgage on it anymore. If you have a mortgage balance, you must be able to pay it off when you close on the reverse mortgage. You can use your own funds or money from the reverse mortgage to pay off your existing mortgage balance.
  • You cannot owe any federal debt, such as federal income taxes or federal student loans. You may, however, use money from the reverse mortgage loan to pay off this debt.
  • You must have enough of your own money or agree to set aside part of the reverse mortgage funds at your loan closing to pay ongoing property charges, including taxes and insurance, as well as maintenance and repair costs.
  • Your home must be in good shape. If your house does not meet the required property standards, the lender will tell you what repairs need to be made before you can get a reverse mortgage loan.
  • You must receive counseling from a HUD-approved reverse mortgage counseling agency
    to discuss your eligibility, the financial implications of the loan, and other alternatives.

What are some alternatives to a reverse mortgage?

Before taking out a reverse mortgage, make sure you understand this type of loan. You may want to look at other ways to make the most of your home and budget, such as waiting a while, using a home equity loan or line of credit, refinancing, downsizing, and lowering your expenses.

Waiting — If you take out a reverse mortgage loan when you are too young, you may run out of money when you’re older and more likely to have less income and higher health care bills.

A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit — This might be a cheaper way to borrow cash against your equity. However, these loans carry their own risks and usually have monthly payments. Qualifying for these loans also depends on your income and credit.

Refinancing — Depending on interest rates, refinancing your current mortgage with a new traditional mortgage could lower your monthly mortgage payments. Pay attention to the length of time you’ll have to repay your new mortgage, because this might affect your budget in retirement. For example, taking on a new 30-year mortgage when you are nearing retirement can become a hardship later. Consider choosing a shorter-term mortgage, such as a 10- or 15-year loan.

Downsizing — Consider selling your home. Moving to a more affordable home may be your best option to reduce your overall expenses.

Lowering your expenses — State and local programs can help with utilities and fuel payments, as well as home repairs. Many localities also have programs to help with property taxes: check with your county or town tax office. Information about these and other benefit programs is available through benefitscheckup.org.


Our Teens in Danger: Chemicals in Vapes Highly Toxic When Heated

A May 8, 2024, study published in the online journal, Scientific Reports, concludes that the chemicals used to produce vapes can become highly toxic when heated and inhaled. A research team at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, located in Dublin, Ireland, used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to analyze the chemical composition of 180 vape flavors, simulating how they decomposed when heated. Alarmingly, the research predicted that vapes could produce 127 “acutely toxic” chemicals, 153 “health hazards,” and 225 “irritants.” Nearly every flavor tested through the AI predictor showed at least one product that was classified as a health hazard, with many predicting several. 

The results of the RSCI University study are highly relevant to all parents because then U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, issued an official Advisory on December 18, 2018, that called youth vaping an “epidemic,” and called on parents, health professionals and governments to curb the use of e-cigarettes. “I am officially declaring e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic,” said Dr. Adams at the press conference announcing his Advisory. “I don’t use that word lightly. We’re in the midst of a historic increase in youth use of any substance. Today we must protect our nation’s young people from a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

According to 2023 figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarettes were the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students in the United States. Approximately 2.1 million, or 7.7% of all students, currently use e-cigarettes. This includes 550,000 middle school students and 1.56 million high school youth. Among the students who had ever used e-cigarettes, 46.7% reported current e-cigarette use, 25.2% vaped every day, and 89.4% used flavored e-cigarettes. Most students reported using the following brands: Elf Bar, Esco Bars, Vuse, JUUL, and Mr. Fog.

Given the popularity of flavored vapes among non-smoking teenagers and young adults, Donal O’Shea, professor of chemistry and Lead Author of the study at RCSI University, concluded that governments have a responsibility to remove all flavors from vapes. “It is plausible that we are on the cusp of a new wave of chronic diseases that will emerge 15 to 20 years from now due to these exposures,” he said. “Understanding the long-term effects of these products on public health, morbidity and mortality is crucial.”

Vaping devices heat the liquid flavoring to high temperatures to form an aerosol that is then inhaled. They contain chemicals including vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine and flavorings, blended in various amounts. Previous experiments have shown that some fruit-flavored vapes — such as strawberry, melon and blueberry — produce dangerous compounds called volatile carbonyls due to this heating process. These compounds are known to have health implications for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cardiovascular disease and cancers. For more information on the dangers of e-cigarettes, please visit the CDC

Edu-Futuro’s Strengthening Families 10-14 Program, which helps teens to reduce such risky behaviors as tobacco use and vaping, is sponsored in part by a generous grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY), empowering Virginia’s youth to make healthy choices by promoting active, nutritious and tobacco-free living.