Article by Samantha Miller
Lebanon, PA- Rafael M. Torres, founder of WEPA Empowerment Center, is making a difference in the lives of many.
Inspired by his grandmothers, Torres credits them for who he is today. After growing up and seeing their resiliency as single mothers, dedicated to helping their children, he knew he wanted to have the same positive effect on others.
WEPA stands for Working to Empower People for Advancement, but is also a hispanic slang used to express excitement or happiness. It is a perfect fit for the Empowerment Center, as it brings joy to the Lebanon Community. It is impressively the first and only bilingual vocational training school in Lebanon.
Torres founded WEPA in January of 2021, however he has been of help to others for over thirty five years. He provides employment services to veterans and their spouses by getting to know them individually. As their case manager, he discovers their skills and abilities, to find them gainful employment.
WEPA opened its doors when Lebanon needed it the most. “When COVID 19 came it was the right time to make sure we had a non-profit organization in place to address the struggles families were encountering.” Torres said.
The ultimate goal of WEPA is to provide trained, certified, and skilled workers to the community. The skills learned at the center are very transferable, and can be used in workforces beyond Lebanon.
Individuals can partake in job readiness workshops, as well as other training services offered. At WEPA, people can get certified in healthcare, culinary arts, and construction. Courses, such as English as a second language, financial literacy, and computer literacy are also available. The training programs are free or of low cost to students, because of donations received by the community.
The mission of embracing diversity and empowering others is held closely to WEPA. One of the reasons why it is so successful is due to the commitment of the staff to enrich the quality of community life in Lebanon.
In February, Torres was awarded a $750,000 grant from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This was a turning point for WEPA, as a center will be opening in Lebanon in September 2022. The building will be located at 9 S. 9th St., Lebanon, expanding the potential and opportunities for WEPA.
The future for WEPA Empowerment Center is looking bright. The possibilities for improvement are endless, for Lebanon and beyond.