Highbridge Community Life Center | GiveWell

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Highbridge Community Life Center

About this page

GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning.

The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organization in question as potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charities. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear Food for the Hungry as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined the charities working primarily in the U.S. was in 2010. As of 2011, we have de-prioritized further work on this cause.

The content we created in 2007 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organization and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions.

Published: 2007

Note: Highbridge Community Life Center applied for a grant GiveWell offered in 2007, but did not receive the grant. The information below explains why.

In a nutshell

What they do: Highbridge provides a huge variety of services, most of which we know little about. We are optimistic about the Nurse Aide Training program, which helps low-income people (below 200% of the poverty line) get certified as Nurse Aides.
Does it work? We're not sure what the impact of Highbridge is, beyond how its clients would do without it. We don't have enough data or context to make a confident judgment. The Nurse Aide Training program does appear to successfully place clients in jobs paying around $10-13/hr.
What do you get for your money? We can't confidently say, but we estimate that Highbridge spends $1.75M to sustainably places 50-70 Nurse Aides (at a cost of $10,000/placement). We have little understanding of what these people's options would be without Highbridge's help, and we don't have any information on sustainable placements in non-Nurse Aide programs.
Where they rank: Like St. Nick's, Highbridge offers a variety of programs to its community, and like St. Nick's, it has one that we found particularly strong (both in terms of documentation and results) - in this case the Nurse Aide Training Program. At this point in time, we slightly prefer St. Nick's, because while similar in a few respects, it offers a wider variety of job training programs and seems better equipped to place its clients in relatively high-paying jobs (as well as helping unemployed clients find relatively low-paying work). (See our overview for more.) However, Highbridge's commitment to learning from its self-evaluation stands out (see Attachment B-8); we recommend it over any non-finalist, and we are optimistic that it is in good position to innovate, improve its programs, and be a strong applicant in the future.

The details

Whom do they serve?

Highbridge has many different work programs, each with different requirements and different populations served. Here we generalize about the clients of the work programs as a whole; we provide more information on program-specific populations when discussing the programs, below.

Highbridge serves the area between Grand Concourse and the Harlem River from 161st to 172nd streets, in the Bronx (Attachment A-2 Pg 3) – according to Highbridge, this is the area with "the lowest median income in NYC and the largest population receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families" (Attachment A-2 Pg 3). This population is predominantly African-American and Latin-American (Attachment A-2 Pg 3); all of Highbridge's clients (in its job training programs) are reported to have incomes below 150% of the federal poverty line (Attachment A-4 Pg 2), and we believe that incomes at that threshold should not be considered self-supporting.

What do they do?

Nurse Aide Training Program

The Nurse Aide Training Program aims to help clients become New York State certified Nurse Aides (Attachment A-2 Pg 2), giving them the opportunity for careers with pay starting around $10.50-$13/hr (Attachment A-2 Pg 7). There is also a Phlebotomy Certification training program aiming to increase opportunities still further (Attachment A-2 Pg 8), but we have very little information on this (apparently relatively new) program.

Clients in the Nurse Aide Training Program must read at a fifth-grade level, as well as having a set of "soft" qualifications including communication skills and punctuality (Attachment A-2 Pg 3); this population ends up being mostly female (Attachment A-2 Pg 2), and has fewer barriers to employment than that of programs like the HOPE Program – for example, clients rarely if ever have housing, substance abuse, or ex-offender-related issues (Attachment B-5).

The program runs 6 hours a day for 22 weeks (Attachment A-4 Pg 2). It also includes help with issues not related directly to work, through Highbridge's other programs, and "post employment support" that "actively assists graduate nurse aides to overcome psychological and logistic barriers in order to upgrade their skills through coaching and connections" (Attachment A-2 Pg 4).

Other programs

Highbridge also offers training in general areas such as English, GED, the citizenship exam, and basic mathematics, reading, and writing (Attachment A-2 Pg 2). Attachment B-4 gives the requirements and hours of each class; test scores are commonly used to place applicants in the appropriate classes.

We do not have job retention data for these programs, making it hard for us to gauge their ability to make a lasting impact on clients' lives. We therefore focus on the Nurse Aide Training Program.

What are the results?

The only program we have strong outcomes data for is the Nurse Aide Training Program. (Highbridge provided data on the number of people enrolled in the rest of its Adult Education program, but no information on the number who eventually found jobs.)

The following data is collected from Attachment A-4 (Pgs 2-3) and Attachment B-1 (Pg 2).

Time period Annual enrollees Annual graduates Annual placed 30 day ret. 90 day ret. 12m ret. 24m ret. Wage
June 1993 - December 2005 75 86% 77% - 98% - - -
July 2002 - December 2005 113 86% 74% - 96% - - $10.62
2002 (1 class) - - - - - - 80% -
2003 (2 classes) - - - - - 88% - -
February 2005 - January 2006 102 92% 62% - - - - -
Since 1995 - - - 99% 95% 86% - -
July 2005 - June 2006 120 - - - - - - -
July 2006 - June 2007 140 - - - - - - -

Generally, from the scattered data we have, we'd estimate that around 85% of enrollees have graduated; around 70% of graduates have been placed; and around 80% of those placed are placed sustainably (for at least 12 months). Cumulatively, that implies that around half of Highbridge's enrollees end up sustainably employed. However, it is hard for us to get a sense of how much this program is affecting their lives, relative to if they didn't have access to the program; it is a carefully selected set of clients (see above), and we don't have a strong reference point.

One thing we do know is that of the 58 people placed in jobs from one set of classes (the set examined in Attachment B-8), 30 were unemployed on entering the program; 21 were employed, but making less than $9/hr; and the remaining 7 people were already making more than $9/hr. Coupled with Highbridge's claim that these jobs pay around $10.50-$13/hr to start (Attachment A-2 Pg 7), and the $10.62/hr average wage indicated in Attachment B-1 (pg 2), this implies that Highbridge's clients are seeing a rise in income after participating in the program.

What does it cost?

Highbridge runs other community programs in addition to its Employment Program. The table below shows Highbridge's costs broken out by Employment and Other programs in an attempt to estimate total costs for the Employment program.

We estimate that Highbridge spends $600,000 to enroll 140 Nurse Aides (a cost of $4200 each) and sustainably place 50-70 Nurse Aides (a cost of $10,000 each). It spends an additional $1.15M on its other Employment programs, which serve ~1,200 people (a cost of $1,000 each), but we can say nothing about how many find sustainable employment.

Highbridge submitted estimated program expenses for its Nurse Aide program. To estimate overhead, we assume that a program's share of orgnanizational overhead is a function of its share of program budget. Below, Nurse's Aide accounts for 15% of program expenses, and thus we estimate that it shares 15% of total organizational overhead, in this case $100,000. Employment shares 40% of organizational overhead, in this case roughly $350,000.

2004-6 expenses come from the IRS Form 990, available at Guidestar. Nurse Aide program expenses (for 2004 and 2008) come from Attachment B-3. Highbridge did not provide estimated expenses for 2007. All expenses are given in thousands of dollars.

We don't have a great deal of confidence in this approach, but we offer it nonetheless as our best guess at what those programs cost.

Year Nurse Aide program expenses Emp. program expenses Total org. program expenses Entire org. expenses Total org. overhead Nurse Aide share of overhead Emp. program share of overhead
2004 $461 $1,289 $3,222 $4,027 $805 14% 40%
2005 - $1,402 $3,401 $4,367 $966 - 41%
2006 - $1,452 $3,665 $4,432 $767 - 40%
2007 - - - - - - -
2008 (est) $545 - - - - - -

Conclusion

We see many of the same strengths and weaknesses in this program that we see in St. Nick's. Both offer a variety of programs, aiming to serve a variety of community members; both feature one particularly well-documented program that seems to be increasing clients' income through certification; and in both cases, there is a lot that remains unanswered, including (a) the question of what clients' certification options would be if not for this charity; (b) the question of what impacts the bulk of these organization's programs have.

Knowing what we know now, we'd rather put our money with St. Nick's, for the following reasons:

  • St. Nick's offers a greater variety of job training programs: whereas Highbridge offers only the Nurse Aide program and general education programs, St. Nick's is set up to accommodate people with a wide variety of career qualifications and interests.
  • Along with this variety comes greater upside: St. Nick's is set up to help its clients get both low-wage and (for those who are capable) moderately high-wage jobs. Highbridge is going down a similar path by introducing its Phlebotomy program, but this program appears to have less of a track record than the St. Nick's ERT program.

However, we are optimistic about Highbridge's being one of our strongest applicants in the future. The evaluation of the Nurse Aide Training Program (Attachment B-8) is more detailed and thorough than the evaluation of any other applicant in this cause other than HOPE. And there appears to be a payoff to this kind of thorough self-evaluation: the decision to institute a Phlebotomy program to improve clients' potential career outcomes, which Highbridge explicitly states was a response to its evaluation showing discontent with low wages (Attachment A-2, Pg 8). This observation leads us to view Highbridge as a "learning organization," one that is studying and learning from its own results, and we hope to see continued innovation leading to excellent programs.

We'd like to know more about:

  • Population served (see "Whom do they help?" section). We have relatively little information about those who enter the Nurse Aide Training program or any other program. Do they face significant barriers to employment such as substance abuse, housing issues, etc.? What are their incomes and standards of living? And how is Highbridge determining that its clients are below 150% of the poverty line?
  • Client outcomes (see "What are the results?" section). We know next to nothing about programs outside of Nurse's Aide Training, and we'd like more information on client outcomes. We'd particularly like to follow and learn more about the new Phlebotomy training program.

Attachments

A. Application and response

B. Program related attachments

C. Organization related attachments

D. Financials

The Highbridge Community Life Center's response to GiveWell's review:

Dear Holden:

Thank you very much for your appreciation of our Nurse Aide Training Program and your continued consideration of Highbridge Community Life Center (a.k.a.: HCLC or the Life Center) as a finalist for the grant. For more information or an overall sense of our programs, please check out our interactive website at www.highbridgelife.org.

Here are the answers to your questions (both stated and implied):

First of all, all of the Life Center's programs must be understood in the context of our holistic family-oriented approach. In the early nineties, HCLC came to a conclusion based on research and our own experience that securing sustainable employment is only one aspect of maintaining long term self-sufficiency for an individual or a family. Long-term self-sufficiency is the result of the accumulation of a critical mass of strengths in several key areas: income, education and skills, housing, safety and environment, connection to human services, relationships, and personal characteristics.

As an agency, HCLC's contact with the participant in any particular program is a bridge to allow access to whatever services the individual or his/her family may need, with the ultimate goal being the development of long-term self-sufficiency for the family. In the same respect, the services are often what make it possible for the participant to make the best use of the original program. HCLC manages this through the Growing Assets Process (GAP), a client/family self-assessment/case-management/coaching model developed by HCLC in 1996, which simultaneously measures and encourages client's progress along the road to greater self-sufficiency. With the help of a GAP Coach (Asset Manager), the client evaluates his/her assets and barriers in each of the seven key areas, then determines and prioritizes goals for increasing assets and reducing barriers. From the initial assessment, the client and coach develop an action plan and progress is documented through regular follow-up meetings. Her/his GAP coach helps each client connect with appropriate services and resources; provides consistent contact, assistance, support and encouragement; and introduces them to other residents involved in growing personal & community assets.

In addition, the Life Center has developed an increased emphasis on collaboration over the years. Well-run collaborations increase effectiveness and maximize use of resources, so in the long run they save money for funders and provide the best service for clients. In order to maximize the resources available to our clients, we have built several Service Networks using the relationships with other organizations that the Life Center had developed through our various collaborations. This allows us to provide a comprehensive array of services, without the waste of duplication. Currently, the Nurse Aide Training Program is our only formal “job training” program. Clients in need of other employment training are referred to the appropriate program at one of these other agencies (for example: we refer people looking for training as Home Health Aides to other agencies and they refer their Home Health Aides who are looking to move up to our NATP). Our Adult Education classes, although often instrumental in securing or advancing employment, are not geared explicitly toward job training. They do include training in useful workplace skills such as financial literacy and computer literacy; and assistance in job hunting; as well as the GAP and it's orientation toward the development of long-term self-sufficiency. Many students make use of the resources available through the Life Center's full time Job Developer. Information on the employment of Adult Education students is attached.

The Service Networks are built upon current formal collaborations, which include: Community Collaborative to Improve Bronx Schools (CCB) - parents and five other CBOs; Bronx REACH 2010 - five other CBOs to improve health education; BRIDGEBUILDERS – Agenda for Children Tomorrow (ACT) and eleven other CBOs to reduce need for foster care; 21st Century Community Learning Center - three local schools, NYS Dept of Ed, and SUNY; NYC Task Force on Developmental Asset Building – Search Institute, Police Athletic League, YMCA, and the Partnership for After School Education (PASE), the Department of Education and the Department of Youth and Community Development. Our most recent collaboration is a job development network called the Earn Fair Alliance.

HCLC is a member of the EarnFair Alliance, a collaborative facilitated by Seedco, a leading workforce development agency, of agencies providing job training and employment services. As part of this network, HCLC has access to a shared database of employers, which is updated regularly. A referral process in place between all members of the EarnFair Alliance, which gives participants access to the following training: customer service, home attendant, construction trades, security, family day care provider training. Other collaborative efforts with the EarnFair Alliance have included the EarnBenefits program which helps participants access benefits including, Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, public health insurance, and childcare subsidies, and participation in a pilot program with the Upper Manhattan One Stop that will enable job ready participants to be ”˜fast-tracked' by these One Stops. As a member of this pilot, HCLC can refer participants to One Stop employment interviews, quarterly job fairs. Through this collaboration, approximately 110 people have entered training, 75 have secured employment, 115 have gained needed benefits and 65 have been referred to the One-Stops for employment and training assistance, annually.

Whom do we serve:
The people who enter our programs face all the barriers to employment that almost all families living in poverty in the inner city face. In some cases, substance abuse and incarceration in family members can be as much of a barrier to successfully completing employment training as the same problems in the participant's own past.
In the Highbridge neighborhood, English is not the dominant language for 61% of adults; 21% can't speak English well or at all. Only 55% of adults have a high school diploma; only 7% have graduated college. Our Adult Education program serves many of the students most in need: 75% of ESOL classes are at NRS Levels 1 and 2 and 67% of BE classes are below NRS Level 4.

Client Outcomes:
What would the clients' certification options be if not for our NATP? Very limited. The few programs that exist in traveling distance charge tuition; require more prior education””usually a high school diploma or GED; or are limited to current employees of the sponsoring medical facility. Our NATP requires only a fifth grade reading level and is not only free, but HCLC pays for the books, the certification exam fee, and even the initial union dues where applicable. (We found that new employees were very discouraged by the small size of their first check after an initial union fee was deducted.) The advantage of attending classes in a familiar local environment should not be under-rated. Women who are venturing into uncharted territory by seeking training and even employment, often with either overt or passive-aggressive opposition from their families or boyfriends, can be easily thwarted by a difficult commute or the intimidation of large or unfamiliar institutions. The supports offered by our program ferret out and help individuals address the other hidden obstacles that would otherwise prevent them from achieving certification, even within the Life Center's NATP. This is also true for the graduate nurse aides who are actively encouraged and supported to pursue further education or advancement. Phlebotomy training is also expensive, difficult to access, or limited to employees in the few facilities that provide it.

HCLC's extensive adult education program includes day and evening classes in ESOL, Citizenship, Adult Basic Education, GED Preparation, and GED in Spanish. HCLC has exceeded New York City/State Performance Targets every year since the introduction of the National Reporting Standards (NRS). In FY 2006 HCLC's educational gain rate was 147% above NRS Performance Targets and HCLC's adult education program was ranked in the top 10% of Workforce Investment Act II funded programs in a state wide report card issued by NY State Education Department. Over 400 immigrants attending citizenship classes have successfully passed the Citizenship exam in the last five years, and NDA funded GED and ABE classes have exceeded performance targets in every year of operation.