Originally published by KSAT12 News

There are now fewer people living in poverty in the San Antonio-New Braunfels area, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released on Friday.

The numbers show a 2.1 percent drop, which means a decline of nearly 39,000 people out of poverty.

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Sister Pearl Ceasar, executive director of Project Quest, said the numbers are encouraging, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Project Quest is a workforce development program that focuses on people with low-income jobs and through training connects them with higher-demand, higher-paying jobs.

“I don’t think we can be complacent, because in that number, unfortunately for San Antonio, there are many children who are in poverty,” Ceasar said.

One of Project Quest’s recent graduates, Melanie Rodriguez, said it has always been her goal to be a nurse. She said it’s a way to honor her mother.

“My mom, she was diagnosed with cancer,” Rodriguez said. “She was a fighter for 10 years. She passed away, but she would always go to chemotherapy and told all the nurses that her daughter was going to be a nurse.”

While pursuing nursing, Rodriguez found out about Project Quest.

“When we find them a job, we’re not just finding one person a good job. We’re finding their whole family a job,” Ceasar said. “We’re moving them up out of poverty. That’s why we are so proud of what we do.”

From financial help with books, a uniform and just moral support, Rodriguez said Project Quest was there for her. She has been connected with a full-time nursing job at Methodist Hospital thanks to the organization.

Rodriguez said she is excited that she will now be able to provide for her two young sons.

“They really helped me with wisdom and encouragement, because going through nursing and not having enough funds, that’s not an easy thing to do,” she said.

Rodriguez will be working as a registered nurse in the oncology department at Methodist Hospital. She starts her new job on Oct. 7.