Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

Toolkit for New Americans: Interview with Nadege Vilsaint, Executive Director for Prosperity Social Community Development Group, Inc.

When we talk about “ New Americans” in our toolkits, we are discussing a potentially vulnerable population that, in most cases, have a great need for resources. Along with these resources, there is a connection to people who are compassionate and who have shaped their careers around helping those in their communities and beyond. The ALSC Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers Committee had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Nadege Vilsaint, who is the  Executive Director of Prosperity Social Community Development Group, Inc. (PSCDG), Miami, Florida. 

“Librarians don’t only empower communities, but they empower every single person that walks into the library. The best gift anyone can give is to empower someone to feel educated and successful. That’s what libraries do.”

– Ms. Nadege Vilsaint

Question: Tell us a little about you, your background, and the community you serve?

I am Nadege Vilsaint, the Executive Director of Prosperity Social Community Development Group, Inc.  Miami, Fl. I am also a licensed Registered social worker and have worked in several different capacities in the field of social work. Prosperity was birthed out of my passion for community. I decided I needed to start an organization where people would be treated with respect and love. The goal would be to meet the community where they are and lead them to positive changes in areas, such as case management, mental health, family support, literacy family empowerment, and most importantly respect and love.  That’s why in August 2011, PSCDG, birth out of the trunk of my car in the parking lot of my mother’s house.  

Question: What are some barriers that you have encountered? 

Lack of funding. For instance, the city may provide a grant and the maximum is 10,000 or less. It’s hard to pay someone with a bachelor’s degree to work providing adult literacy, case management, mental health, and family support with that budget.  Especially when you want to hire good people with the heart to provide the right services to the community. You would need to consider a work schedule of 5 days a week and some weekends. That’s why we are always looking for volunteers that have the compassion to work with underserved populations.

Question: What are some of your successes?

When we started the Adult Literacy program a few years back we had a small group that now have their high school diploma (that they couldn’t get in their native country), are nurses, business owners, etc. And the most beautiful thing about them is that they give back to the community with items such as back-to-school kits, books, pencils, and paper to the same community that gave to them. One thing I love about the immigrant population is that they value the little things. In this program, we also bought dictionaries in English and Spanish. They could read it in their native language and translate it into English which empowered them to become very independent. We sold these for only $2 so they wouldn’t have to pay the original price of $15. Or they would receive it as a gift for perfect attendance.  

Question: Outside of adult literacy, what are some other things or different programs that you offer? 

Our after-school program serves about 160 kids from 4 different schools in the Miami Dade County public school system. We have a middle school program that serves 6-8th grades, and a Boys group called “Boys of Today”. These are alternative programs where a lot of the kids are either on probation or mandated to attend schools. We have the 9-12th grade, where we provide job readiness, STEM programs, and internships. We provide professional attire for a job interview, senior breaks and etc. .  We also built partnerships with many different employers in the community so when they interview with one of our partners, they are guaranteed that job. We also do a lot of mental health sessions. Mental health has been one of the biggest programs that have grown because of the COVID -19 pandemic, a lot of the kids are dealing with anxiety, bereavement, etc.  So, we try to provide mental health services, family counseling, bereavement support group, and family therapy. 

Question: What are some best practices that you use when dealing with “underserved” communities? 

One of the social-emotional learning practices we use is called Positive Action. This is a training with the staff of PSCDG.  It’s being self-aware when clients say they are not ready. You can see it, the beauty of them wanting it, but they have to be ready. The training teaches us how to take a step back and wait until they are ready.  Understanding a client’s unspoken word of “I’m ready for help” and “How do we move forward?”.

Question: What are your long-term goals for the organization? 

In the next three years, I would like to start Project Hope. This would be a transitional home for youth to heal their mind, body, and soul. In the next five years, a community center where a lot of youth can come and hang out, have access to a music studio, etc. But the goal is to meet the youth in our community where they are and make positive change with them, not for them.  

Question: What role do libraries play in your organization?

In the adult literacy program, parents asked, “How do I read to the kids?” First, learn how to read and in order to learn how to read, go to the library and check out books that are at your level. The North Miami Public library ( Our home library) has a special collection of language books including Creole. The parents can check out books in their native language, read books together, and challenge each other to finish these books. With receptive librarians, I can send more people there independently. Librarians don’t only empower communities, but they empower every single person that walks into the library. The best gift anyone can give is to empower someone to feel educated and successful. That’s what libraries do.

Question: What recommendation would you give someone who is working with or interested in working with underserved communities? 

Be open to constructive criticism. You are never too smart or too old to learn. I took grant writing classes 7 times, not because I didn’t pass. I had to feel it in myself that I was ready for it. When I started, I was a social worker, the mental health aide, bus driver, the everything. Titles don’t mean anything to me, and they still don’t. My staff will say, “Slow down. We got this.” Never turn someone away that needs help. One of the biggest problems now is suicide. You never want to trigger that. I recommend that you have a passion for what you want to do and understand the community you want to serve. My award is seeing others succeed; “like a kid reading a book or improving writing skills” brings a smile to my face.

Question: How do you foster partnerships to serve underserved communities? 

I view a person as my baby doll. A baby doll that came to me with no hands, no feet, just a head. I want to make this baby doll whole again by connecting arms, legs and making sure the head is right. If there’s a parent, they need an after-school program, job readiness training, professional entire assistance, housing assistance, etc. Our agency has built long-lasting partnerships with many other organizations in the community, such as shelters, food banks, health centers, at a flat fee of $19.00, etc. I keep a petty cash box at the office to help with paying rents or light bills if need to do so. Again, people don’t come to you if they are not in need. If someone comes to you and they need something and they have children, that’s a high priority. At the end of the day, every kid needs some stability in life. When both agencies understand and value each other with the same compassion for the community. That’s what a true community looks like.

We would like to thank Ms. Vilsaint, not only for meeting with us for this interview, but for all she has done for New Americans, underserved populations, and giving us tools we can use as we carry out our duties in librarianship.    


Georgette Spratling is the Youth Services Librarian at the North Miami Public Library in North Miami, Fl. She is a mother of 2 daughters, an HBCU Alum ( Florida A & M University), and a lover of all things science fiction and fantasy.  When she is not helping teens in the library to become a better version of themselves, you can find her traveling the globe and making memories with her friends and family. 

Melody Leung is a Youth Services Librarian at the Everett Public Library in Washington State. She enjoys reading graphic novels, cooking, and partnering with inspiring people in library-adjacent fields to better youth lives. 

Image courtesy of Nadege Vilsaint

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