The St. Joseph Center in Venice joined the City of Santa Monica Housing Authority at the Seventh Annual Graduation and Awards Ceremony, “Marching Through the Sand, Headed for Success.”

Certificates were awarded at the St. Monica’s Church auditorium in Santa Monica Thursday, May 15th, to 14 graduates who have successfully completed the Housing Authority’s five-year Family Self-Sufficiency Program and are on their way to achieving economic independence.

The event was catered by St. Joseph Center’s Culinary Training Program, led by program instructor Derek Walker.

Collectively, the 14 graduates this year saved over $99,000 in their Family Self-Sufficiency Program savings/escrow accounts, according to a spokesman.

The Self-Sufficiency Program, a project of the City of Santa Monica Housing Authority, is a voluntary program designed to assist families in achieving economic self-sufficiency through education and job training. St. Joseph Center is among the agencies that provide case management for those enrolled in the program.

“We are very proud of our graduates’ accomplishments,” new St. Joseph Center executive director Va Lecia Adams said. “We appreciate and value the commitment they have made to achieving greater self-sufficiency. At St. Joseph Center, we are dedicated to connecting our clients to life-changing resources and empowering them to move towards economic independence.”

The graduation ceremony was made possible by the support of donors, including Ana Greenberg; Sally Malloy of the Legal Aid Foundation; Rebecca Ama- do-Sprigg, St. Joseph Center Family Center Program manager; Luanne Tessier, St. Joseph Center Family Center case manager; Jody Gilbert, Family Self-Sufficiency case manager; The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Party America.

The self-sufficiency savings/ escrow accounts are a financial incentive for participants to successfully complete their action plans.

Generally, as an enrolled family’s earned income increases, the amount the family must pay for rent also goes up, according to the Santa Monica Housing Authority. As this happens, the Housing Authority takes a portion of the rent subsidy that is saved and places it in an interest-bearing account.

That account is held in escrow for the family until it completes all the goals contained in its Self-Sufficiency Plan. Once the families have met their goals and “graduated” to become independent of public assistance, they may cash out the escrow account. Some families use these funds for significant purchases, such as a down-payment on a home.