Author: Madyson Russell

When (college) students become the teachers

With 90% of the brain developing by age five, the early education work being done in child care centers across Austin has never been more important. Now is the time to make the most impact on the lives of children. Each child is a brick in the foundation of our community, our future workforce and beyond – and it’s important to ensure that all children have the same opportunity to receive a high-quality and compassionate early education. And that’s where our revamped tutoring program comes in.  Six college-aged tutors are making an impact in the lives of Pre-K aged children at two pilot campuses in Austin – Zavala and Galindo Elementary. “Right now, as college students, we realize the importance of education, and we know that these students are just starting out. We have the ability to help them not fall behind,” David, first-year Tutor said. “Once you get behind it’s a lot harder to catch up, and so it’s better to invest and make an impact now.” Tutors will work with the Pre-K aged kids to develop language skills throughout the school year through the Developing Talkers curriculum. The program uses dialogic reading, an interactive reading technique that involves engaging the child in conversation about the book in order to develop a wider vocabulary, improve verbal skills and more. But most importantly the tutors are developing relationships and a level of trust that allows them to grow the minds of these young learners. “A lot of people say children […]

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Something Special Happens When We Live United

Something special happens when we Live United… when we come together and root for our team: The Greater Austin community. And that’s exactly what we did on the morning of August 28th at our Live United Breakfast. Our Board, team, donors, community partners, volunteers, advocates, and champions came together to celebrate our community impact with all the people who made it happen.  Here are just a few highlights from the Live United Breakfast that we’re especially excited about: 1. We published our 2018-2019 Community Impact Report. Last year, we impacted more than 47,000 children and families, invested more than $7 million directly into our community, and answered more than 390,000 calls for assistance. And so much more.   Read All About It 2. Keynote Speaker Andy Loughnane, President of Austin FC, reminded us what makes the Greater Austin community special and shared how he Lives United. Thank you to Kristin Marcum, President of Elizabeth Christian PR and United Way Board Member, for leading that conversation with Andy (pictured above). Five lucky attendees even won an Austin FC scarf. 3. We debuted our Live United video. Watch and be inspired.   4. Everyone there inspired us with their commitment to Live United. How will you Live United? Here are a few ways you can take that next step. Join a United Way donor network to get involved, stay connected and advocate for change. Give Now > Volunteer during United Way’s Fall Day of Caring. Sign Up > Encourage your business to […]

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Meet Allison, Our Awesome Advocate

Over the course of two decades, Allison Dwyer has utilized her talents and voice to fiercely advocate for our community. As a speech pathologist and mom of four, Allison has always felt called to improve the lives of young children and their families, and here at United Way for Greater Austin, we’ve seen her do just that.    “When I came to Austin, I started to look around to see what the landscape here was like. I was raising my own kids, but every now and again I would get a little passion and fire to see what was going on out there,” Allison said. “I found Success By 6 back in the early 2000s. I called and spoke with someone who was working at United Way, and we talked for a long time. The mission really resonated with me.”   In addition to leading some advocacy efforts for Success By 6, Allison became involved with the early language coaching program at United Way for two years. Early Language Coaches are placed for approximately nine months in child care center classrooms serving children ages 3-5 in small group settings or one-on-one. Through the program, Allison ensured the children at the Bright Beginnings Child Care Center were provided with engaging, age-appropriate material to nurture their skills to help reach development milestones.    “It was nice to be able to go into the classroom with my speech pathology background and see how I could assist the children and teachers,” Allison said.    […]

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From Barriers to Brighter Future

Imagine: You’re a mother of three and you recently relocated to the United States from the Middle East with your family. Striving to enforce the value of education to your children, you vow to complete your high school diploma – despite a sizable language barrier. You enroll in part-time high-school diploma classes so you can meet your two older children as they get off the school bus every day. Now, you need to find child care for your youngest daughter.   Anisa doesn’t have to imagine this scenario – she’s living it.   A native Farsi speaker, Anisa needed to enroll in ESL (English as a Second Language) courses before taking academic classes. Anisa also worried that her youngest daughter Adrina would be developmentally delayed due to her limited communication skills. Then, Anisa found one of United Way ATX’s Community Investment Grant partners – Goodwill Industries.   Goodwill Industries launched The Goodwill Excel Center, the first free public charter high school in Austin, Texas for adults 17 – 50. This high school has specialized learning plans, life coaches, and support services to help ensure student success. Thanks to The Goodwill Excel Center, Anisa was able to enroll in ESL classes and receive free childcare throughout the course of her education. The service allows parents to take classes close to where their kids attend child care and save parents several thousands of dollars a year in child care.   All of this sounded like a dream come true to Anisa. After […]

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Meet the United Way Team: Wonde Will Wow You

At United Way ATX we value and celebrate all voices. From Board members to donors to team members to partner organizations to the children and families we work with, we strive for inclusivity where everyone has a place at the table and their voices can be heard. Today, we are excited to introduce you to one of our newest team members Wondemneh Pawlose. We would love to tell you a little bit about Wonde, but we think you’ll like it even better hearing from him. (You’ll love him as much as we do.) I come from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. I have seen the many faces of poverty growing up. People struggling to eat three meals every day, kids quitting school in order to financially contribute to their families, and sick people with the inability to seek medical treatment (where the clinic card itself costs more than their weekly budget) are realities lived by the few million residents of Addis Ababa. If you had told me in 2011 that poverty is rooted deep in various American cities and their inhabitants, I would have told you that you had lost your mind.  2011 was the year I have migrated to America, and I had no idea about the wealth disparity that exists within many American cities like Austin, TX. In my defense, I was taught to consider America as a land of milk and honey… a place where there is no space for poverty (if one chooses to […]

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AVANCE-Austin Makes Austin Greater

Being a mom to three kids can be overwhelming at times, especially when one of your children needs some extra help and special attention. Such was the case for Catalina Sanchez. Catalina found herself in a bind when her youngest son Carlos began experiencing speech delays requiring therapy. Because he was having trouble communicating, Carlos began misbehaving. Over time, Catalina and Carlos’ frustrations mounted. Feeling stretched to her limit, Catalina turned to AVANCE-Austin for help. AVANCE was founded in 1973, and has been an Austin institution since 1998. The direct translation of AVANCE means to “advance” or “progress,” and that’s what the AVANCE-Austin team embodies. They meet families with low-income where they are. Families like Catalina’s. After meeting with Catalina and Carlos, the AVANCE-Austin team were able to identify that Catalina suffered from postpartum depression. She began group counseling while Carlos began speech therapy. After a few months of this support, Catalina is more equipped than ever to nurture Carlos’ needs, while also giving attention to her other two kids. Catalina’s interactions have become more intentional, and through her home visits from AVANCE-Austin she has shown incredible progress in working with her kids, including her new habit of reading to all of her children every evening for bonding and cognitive skill building. United Way for Greater Austin is proud to have played a supporting role in Catalina’s success. Funding from United Way ATX has helped to expand AVANCE-Austin’s capacity and quality for home visiting. What’s special about our partnership with […]

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Electronic Arts Gives Back Big

If you walked past our office on East MLK on May 23rd and heard “EA!” cheers, no need to be alarmed. That was just 300 amazing Electronic Arts (EA) employees working hard to make our campus and neighborhood beautiful. On May 23, more than 300 volunteers from Electronic Arts spread out across the Austin community at five volunteer spots completing more than 10 projects that had a BIG impact. As a part of their 2019 #EAGivesBack Day, EA employees partnered with United Way ATX to fight poverty through meaningful volunteer action. From building early childhood classroom kits to beautifying our Eastside neighborhood, EA employees brought energy and enthusiasm to every part of the volunteer day. “At EA, we give back because we have the wonderful opportunity to operate in 47 offices are 25 countries in the world. We can all get caught up in our day-to-day jobs of making games, but there is an entire population of people who surround us in these vibrant communities in which we operate for us to give back to,” Mala Singh, Chief People Officer at Electronic Arts, said. “Our gamers and their families give so much to us and it is important to give back to them in the ways that we can.” Mic drop. As an organization, EA is committed to giving back to their local communities all over the world and helping them thrive. And it’s mega inspiring. “We are so grateful for what [they have done]. Thank you so much,” David […]

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You Make Austin Ruthlessly Good

On Saturday, hundreds of Austinites took to the streets of Austin in the name of fun and fighting poverty. Our third annual Ruthless Good scavenger hunt was the best one yet. Altogether, the event raised nearly $15k! United Way for Greater Austin believes that everyone deserves to enjoy the promise of Austin, which is why we rally our community to help all our citizens reach their full potential. We want to say a HUGE thank you to our top fundraisers: Kenneth Warner, Kendra Scott Kristin Guy, Liberty Hillbillies Brent Gillentine, The Mongolian Dandelions And to our top fundraising teams: Velocity Credit Union Kendra Scott Outside the Law We also want to thank our amazing sponsors: Our Presenting Sponsor: Texas Mutual Our Uniting Sponsor: JPMorgan Chase Our Convening Sponsor: Long Motors Our Partner Sponsors: 3M, Humana, and UPS And our In-Kind Sponsors: Taco Ranch, InLieu, Yoga Pod, Austin Detours, Amy’s Ice Cream, and Big Swig A giant and heartfelt thank you to our rockstar Ruthless Good Ambassadors: Jeremiah Bentley, Co-Chair, Texas Mutual Yvette Ruiz, Co-chair, JPMorgan Chase Alex Amaya, Deloitte Jalan Andrews, Oracle Raul Barreto, Facebook Britney Box, Austin Chamber of Commerce Kathy Chou, Samsung Kate Davy, Graves Dougherty Hearon & Moody Chris Eddy, Blipic Brandi Flores, Humana Holley Ford, Humana Darryl Giden, Enterprise Chad Hardy, Wells Fargo Mark Huff, H-E-B Christina Hughes, Diligent Robotics Hamzah Khataw, Encotech Daniele Kimes, Blipic Andres Lemos, NXP Patrick Mercer, Frost Bank Gloria Perez, HomeAway Nico Ramsey, Velocity Credit Union Lacy Roesler, Austin Chamber of […]

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Impossible to Unstoppable

Imagine you’re a young single mother struggling to find affordable child care for your new baby. You need child care because you are striving to get your GED. With a GED, you hope you will be able to get a better job, and in turn, build a better life for you and your daughter. Only… you need child care to be able to get your GED, and you need your GED to get a job that will allow you to make enough money to afford child care. See the problem here? This is the exact no-win situation Alyzeah Martinez found herself in. As Alyzeah began to adjust to life as a new mother, she was having to rely on family and friends to take care of her daughter Luna so she could make it to class – child care was just too expensive. Alyzeah was struggling to piece together a child care plan. With everyone’s availability changing day-to-day, she began to miss class. “I was asking family members to watch Luna during the day while I went to school and paying them [more than] $100 a week to do so,” Alyzeah said. “It was nearly impossible to find someone every day and I can’t afford to pay for child care myself.” Alyzeah decided to enroll in a GED and job training program at American YouthWorks. The Youthbuild program at American YouthWorks begins when a young parent needing child care applies. Then, case managers work with the applicant to enroll their […]

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Success By 6 Coalition Launches 2019-2023 “Success By 6” Strategic Plan

Every day, an average of 38 babies are born in the Austin area. The Success By 6 (SX6) Coalition is working to ensure that each of these 38 brand-new Texans has an equal opportunity to thrive. SX6 is a coalition of child and family advocates – providers, parents, policymakers, civic leaders, philanthropists, business leaders, and early childhood experts – working together on a community plan that reflects our collective wisdom and amplifies our collective voice.   “Success By 6 has child development at the heart of its mission,” Dr. Jennifer Duc, Assistant Clinical Professor, UT-Austin Pediatric Residency Program and Outpatient Pediatrician, CommUnityCare said. “Success By 6 knows that nurtured children and supported families create the foundation for strong, healthy, and successful communities.”     On Wednesday, April 24, 2019, the SX6 Coalition launched the next iteration of our community’s strategic plan and lay out their strategies and goals for the next 2,000 days. From 7:15 – 9 a.m. civic leaders, including Mayor Steve Adler, Judge Sarah Eckhardt, Council Member Alison Alter, early childhood education experts, policymakers and more gathered to celebrate the hard work and collaboration that went into creating the plan. Attendees heard a keynote from The University of Texas System Chancellor James B. Milliken over breakfast at the University of Texas Club.   Why a 2,000-day journey? Because research has proven that the first five years of a child’s life strongly influence the rest. Ninety percent of brain development happens within the 2,000 days from birth to Kindergarten, […]

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