Meet the PNLV Staff – Yamil Sanchez Rivera

Executive Director of Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley
Executive Director of Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley

1. Under your direction PNLV has become a true regional organization, expanding into Easton and Bethlehem after starting in Allentown. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the organization’s work in APN that you will bring to EPN and BPN?

The most valuable lesson that I have learned from our work in the Allentown Promise Neighborhood is that the residents must be included in our work from the onset. Thus, the growth into Easton and Bethlehem has exemplified the importance of including the voice of the people we serve at the forefront of our conversations. The process included a comprehensive environmental scan for each city, highlighting the current state of issues/needs related to education, housing, safety and health. However, the most critical component of the growth was the inclusion of the voices of residents that participated in our Town Hall meetings. We held 17 Town Hall meetings in Easton and 15 in Bethlehem. The conversation with residents from throughout both cities added a layer of crucial insight that brought the environmental scan information to life.

2. Last summer APN conducted a door-to-door survey of residents asking them a variety of questions about education, safety and quality of life in general. This summer you conducted the APN survey again and also did it in Easton for the first time. What type of information do you hope to gain from these surveys and how will PNLV use it?

The survey is one of the multiple ways that we look to incorporate resident input into our Collective Impact work. The data from the surveys provide a formal and scientific way to gather very important information that will help shape services provided by nonprofit agencies, government entities, health institutions, and safety organizations. Our Neighborhood Survey provides a linkage between the agencies that provide direct service related to education, housing, safety, and health and the individuals that are most often disengaged. The final report will be shared with residents and organizations that serve the Allentown and Easton Promise Neighborhoods.

3. What do you think are the most commonly held misconceptions about Promise Neighborhood residents in the Lehigh Valley, and what can PNLV do to help change them?

I often focus on the positive, so I will share that PNLV is committed to deliver on all 9 promises for all children and families in our neighborhoods. We will serve as the backbone organization that connects the children/families in need of support with the agencies whose mission drive them to serve the needs we help identify. By successfully serving as the convener and helping more children and families succeed, whatever misconceptions people may have about Promise Neighborhood residents should quickly be eliminated.

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