Grantee Spotlight

Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, Inc.

Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, Inc. (FWEP) is a youth development program that seeks to empower boys to become responsible men and productive members of their families and communities. Through the power of relationships and an ongoing system of support, FWEP helps young men of color realize their potential and achieve their goals of graduating high school and pursuing postsecondary education.

Community Roots 

FWEP is deeply rooted in its community and largely came about because of social and economic conditions in the area. Faced with median incomes below $25,000 and nearly 40% of adults without a high school diploma, the Fifth Ward is one of the most economically distressed areas in Harris County and the state. FWEP was envisioned as an intervention to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty in the Fifth Ward and develop young men of color into community leaders. FWEP provides mentoring, tutoring, and life skills development to approximately 200 underserved youth in middle schools and high schools throughout the year. Students receive supportive guidance and engage in many experiential learning and entrepreneurial activities that enrich their lives and broaden their horizons. The program is effective. For the past 20 years, more than 90 percent of youth participants who successfully complete the program are promoted to the next grade level or graduate from high school.

Broadening Horizons

FWEP strives to be engaging and comprehensive in exposing youth to places and possibilities outside the community. For instance, students and parents are invited to go on college tours and explore the many postsecondary pathways of attending a two- or four-year college, vocational training or military program. Such experiences make youth's dreams more concrete and reinforce the high expectations FWEP instills in them. Students benefit from being exposed to the possibilities after high school early on, which allows them to be more informed when setting goals and choosing their endorsement track in 8th grade. The goal is for students to have postsecondary awareness, access, and readiness that prepares them for the workforce.

Support Beyond High School 

As more and more students have successfully graduated high school and moved on to college, FWEP realized that students still needed support in their college years. For this reason, FWEP has now expanded its program to include a college component. Once students are in college, FWEP continues to follow up and check in with and support them in whatever way they need. Staff sends nudges through text messages to make sure students are staying on top of financial and scholarship deadlines and check in when students miss class. In this way, FWEP provides a continuum of support starting in middle school and continuing through the college years.

A Future of Challenges...

As the organization continues to grow, it faces challenges. Capacity is the first hurdle FWEP must address. Providing continuous support while still maintaining a personal touch with students from middle school through college is challenging because the numbers of students served is increasing. As FWEP expands along the educational pipeline, it must figure out how to do so in a way that does not dilute services. Another key challenge is related to space. After-school activities are provided in an informal setting at the Fifth Ward Multi-Service Center where youth are transported via the agency's van fleet. At this site, FWEP will not be able to accommodate, or transport, the additional 100 program participants forecasted for the upcoming school year. Strategically, successful engagement of these additional youth must be provided at their school sites and it will be extremely important for HISD to keep the schools open after the bell. However, individual campus needs and district budgets may affect this strategy and FWEP continues to consider all options that will allow expansion of its programming.

…And Excitement

Looking forward, there are some exciting things in the works. First, FWEP is undergoing a name change. This change came about because of Rockwell Fund's investment in capacity building. Our foundation provided funding for consultants to develop a strategic plan supporting the potential growth, expansion and marketing of FWEP. Among the key recommendations was that FWEP adopt a more encompassing name, one that did not imply ties to only one community. FWEP's new name is expected to be announced by 2018.

In addition, FWEP has become a model mentoring program and is now a part of the Mentoring Alliance of Greater Houston which includes the My Brother's Keeper-Houston Movement and other United Way-affiliated agencies. This group is working on formatting the structure of mentoring programs and setting quality standards for mentoring that will ensure fidelity to the model and improved outcomes for students. FWEP is also working with the Houston Department of Health and Human Services-Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Research for Effectiveness to produce a tool that will better allow FWEP to monitor, document, and evaluate program processes as the agency grows and evolves. This tool will then be added to an emerging database of youth-related intervention indicators for the City of Houston.

Lessons Learned

Charles Savage, Executive Director of FWEP, offers the following advice to nonprofits in the field:

  • Organizations should remain mission-focused, which includes staying relevant and filling a need in the communities they serve. Finding this balance requires nonprofits to be partners with the community. In this way, nonprofits know what their role is yet are still flexible enough to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • On a related note, becoming a partner means making a commitment to stay for the long haul. This is particularly relevant for impoverished communities, where nonprofits often come and go after a year or two. Nonprofits must work to establish and maintain trust with the community and the individuals they serve, especially when working with youth. The consistency of the relationship matters, both at the individual and community levels - the message should be one of keeping your doors open and always being there for them.

RFI is proud to support FWEP as it has changed and grown alongside the youth it serves. FWEP is a committed partner to the young men of the greater Fifth Ward community and an outstanding example of how developing long-lasting, trusting relationships with youth can change their lives and help them pursue their dreams. 



FWEP Day Of Service 2017

2017 FWEP Day of Service

FWEP Youth Action Day 2017

2017 Youth Action Day in Austin, TX