Nestled on the East Side of Austin, Texas, Todos Juntos has been changing lives one family at a time for 10 years. Founder and Executive Director, Christina Collazo, has been a “Catalyst for Change” long before she was nominated for this year’s Mission Capital Award.
Collazo began implementing a 2Gen (also known as Dual Gen) approach in her work a decade ago before it became the buzz-word it is today. She saw the value in raising families out of poverty through an intergenerational approach. Her vision took her out of the classroom, and into the non-profit sector where she has built an organization from the ground up. Amidst many hardships she faced along the way, she never balked in the face of adversity.
“Christina Collazo is a pioneer who understood [the complex problem of intergenerational poverty] and saw its solution. She intuitively saw the link between outcomes for children and outcomes for their parents,” Sue Carpenter, Chief Programs Officer for United Way for Greater Austin said. “Many of the students at the predominately Latino high school in Austin where she worked were reading below grade level, and their parents, eager to engage and support their children, struggled to overcome language barriers and low-education levels themselves. For Christina, it was the stereotypical light bulb moment. If only she could reach the entire family earlier when the return on investment was so much greater and pair language and skills training for parents with high-high quality early education for their children.”
Collazo’s solution embodies what we now refer to as a “2Gen Approach,” which is one of the core pillars of United Way for Greater Austin.
As per their website, “Todos Juntos is a bilingual, 2-Gen Family Learning Center, and since 2009, [they’ve] been committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by strengthening immigrant families through education. [They] work with the children and their parents simultaneously, building them up together to create meaningful opportunities – for both. [They] collaborate in education with families, partner agencies, and [the] greater community because, [to make a change], there is only one way to do it: all together.”
With a staff retention rate of nearly 100 percent and a student completion rate upwards of 90 percent, it’s no wonder that Todos Juntos is receiving a lot of recognition in the community this year. Collazo’s nomination for the “Catalyst for Change” Mission Capital Award, is one among several other accolades they are up for. With their 10-year anniversary coming up in 2019 (stay tuned for a fundraiser and celebration in honor of this milestone) we are so proud to spotlight them this month!
Todos Juntos (TJ) enrolls around 50-60 kids and 100-110 adults for their programs every year. They offer ELL, ESL and parent development courses for adults as well as early childhood education programs for young children that happen in tandem. As a licensed childcare provider, Todos Juntos holds classes for children from 18 months- 4 years of age. TJ employs a diverse and bilingual staff, which resonates with the students and creates a familiar and comfortable environment for learning and growth.
All classes are held onsite at TJ, four days a week, nine months out of the year, with up to four years of ongoing enrollment. TJ offers GED assistance, and is the only learning center in Austin using the “Open Doors Curriculum.” They encourage their students to succeed by encouraging them to use their skills in action through community outings, workshops and events.
School readiness is TJ’s main goal for the children going through their program. Their programs help families in a number of ways, and testimonials on their website offer moving insight into the benefits of their programming. Christina Collazo speaks so passionately about her students, and in a recent interview elaborated on how employees and students are more than their “roles”: they are family. One of their current staff members working in the childcare center is a former student who graduated, and is now giving back to other families and helping them reach their goals. The culture of TJ is family oriented, and all about readying families for success in their community. Utilizing the 2Gen approach has helped TJ inform families to create a network of support, and embrace their future.
Christina Collazo says a successful day at TJ is when there are happy kids, happy families and everyone is learning and engaged. Her perception of how every day goes at TJ is when “everyone is working together to provide a different outlook for futures, for the families that [they] work with.” When talking about 2Gen in the City of Austin, it is impossible to leave Todos Juntos out of the conversation. They are one of the most intensive programs in Austin, and are helping set the standard for the 2Gen agenda in Austin-Travis County. They are staying focused on improving their organization, and are currently working towards streamlining data collection and utilization to support their holistic approach and track outcomes of students. They are also deep into strategic planning, and have recently kicked off a new school year! We cannot wait to see the growth of Todos Juntos over the next decade, and many more to come! Congrats, to their team for their well-deserved recognition this year.
September kicks off a very busy time of year for Todos Juntos, all their students are returning (typically around 40% from the previous year) and new students are enrolling. October will mark a huge event for students – a Poetry Reading, open to the public, on
Tuesday, October 9, from 6 – 9 p.m. come to see their students in action, at Buenos Aires Café! They are also prepping for a healthcare workshop in October, with local health champions and information available to ensure Austinites know their rights when it comes to healthcare. Collaborating with organizations like Todos Juntos is what United Way for Greater Austin is all about, and we encourage you to get involved! Todos Juntos is currently seeking out a new space to grow their work, so if you know of a great location for expansion let them know! You can also sign up as a volunteer; there are opportunities to be a 1:1 reader with children, participate in other classroom activities, event planning, data entry, gardening and more!
Story By: Morgan Messick,
Mission Advancement Communications & Grants Manager