Blog

Outdoor Learning Environments & the importance of play

Data shows that the path to poverty starts at an early age and one contributing factor is that many children who are low-income do not have access to the same resources as their more advantaged peers. Now, more than ever, research indicates that the earliest years of life often sets the stage for lifelong physical and mental health and academic success. Children thrive when they are cared for by responsive and sensitive adults; participate in regular, stimulating early learning experiences; and enjoy healthy food and active play. Time spent playing in naturalized outdoor learning environments has been linked to a variety of positive health and wellness outcomes. It has been shown to support gross motor development, reduce rates of myopia, and increase physical activity. reduces children’s levels of stress and aggression, increases concentration, and lessens the symptoms associated with ADHD. Additionally play is associated with improved performance on science tests and development of an environmental ethic. The bottom line- play improves the lives of all children. OLE (Outdoor Learning Environments)! Texas is a new statewide intervention for increasing childhood physical activity and food awareness by improving childcare centers’ outdoor environments. Success By 6 is leading a coalition of local stakeholders to implement this model in our community. Launched in 2016, OLE! Texas is supported by the Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention Section, Texas Department of State Health Services, and implemented through a statewide project leadership team with support from the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) and Texas Parks and Wildlife. […]

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Big updates on the School Readiness Action Plan

“The number one way that we can address these long-term challenges of poverty, of education, is to invest in early childhood education.” – Julian Castro, Former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development In 2012, United Way for Greater Austin brought early childhood advocates, experts, parents, service providers and business leaders together to transform the early childhood system in Travis County through a unified strategic plan – the School Readiness Action Plan (SRAP). The foundation for the SRAP was built on two decades of advocacy work by local early childhood champions as well as the science of early childhood development. We recently updated the 2015-2018 SRAP. Here’s why this plan is so important.  Austin is a tale of two cities. On one hand, Austin is a vibrant city known for its live music and prosperous growth and, on the other side, Austin is the most economically segregated city in the nation and is growing in terms of wealth disparity. And it’s our youngest residents who bear the brunt of economic disparities. More than 40 percent of all children under the age of six live in low-income households in Travis County. This means that almost 40,000 children do not have the same resources, support or opportunities as their counterparts from families with higher income. The School Readiness Action Plan is built upon a clear framework. We believe that in order for children to be ready for success, families, communities, early-education services and physical and mental health professionals must be ready. […]

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UWATX receives $50,000 from Tokyo Electron for Hurricane Recovery Fund

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) announces a $50,000 matching donation from Tokyo Electron (TEL) in support of UWATX’s collaborative hurricane recovery efforts: the Central Texas Long-Term Recovery Fund. This $50,000 matching gift represents the first major corporate pledge of support to UWATX’s fund. United Way for Greater Austin is proud to be teaming up with Austin Community Foundation, Entrepreneurs Foundation, MFI Foundation and Capital Factory to coordinate the efforts of the Central Texas philanthropic community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. UWATX CEO, David C. Smith stated, “We are extremely grateful to TEL for joining this effort by adding $50,000 in matching funds to challenge our community to invest in this initiative and see their funds go further toward the long term rebuilding that we can only achieve by pulling together.” In the coming months, United Way will work with our partner agencies to identify the areas of greatest need. Funds will be deployed over the next several years through strategic grants supporting long-term recovery efforts. Through the Central Texas Long-Term Hurricane Recovery Fund, we are committed to supporting affected communities, particularly those with access to fewer resources. Click here to make a donation to support long-term recovery efforts for hurricane victims. In addition to its fundraising efforts, UWATX’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center team has been working around the clock since Hurricane Harvey made landfall to help those affected by the storm.  Locally and statewide, the 2-1-1 network has been experiencing record call volume. Thousands of search and rescue calls […]

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Investing in impact

Austin is the greatest city to live in on earth, isn’t it? I’ve loved this city since moving here over twenty four years ago, but the Austin you and I love, and the one at the top of many “best of” lists is not the same reality for our residents who are living in poverty. Earlier this year, United Way for Greater Austin  (UWATX) completed a strategic planning process led by an amazing team from Boston Consulting Group. From this process came a focused vision and plan that will move United Way forward and, most importantly, will help our neighbors living in poverty. As a result of our new vision, we’ve discontinued some of our programs in order to better focus on areas where we’re creating the greatest impact. As we launch our new strategic vision, UWATX will focus on three explicit areas: the 2-1-1 Navigation Center and our Success By 6 and 2-Generation initiatives. We think of them as pillars, each addressing poverty in a unique way and together creating a holistic, 360 degree approach. The 2-1-1 Navigation Center consists of two principal services – information and referral support, as well as our Healthcare Navigation Program. Essentially, if you don’t know where to sleep tonight, can’t pay your utility bill, or don’t have enough food for your family, we’ll connect you with a service in town that can meet those needs. It’s free, confidential, multilingual and available 24/7. We answered more than 300,000 calls just last year, which gives us […]

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YLS Member Spotlights

United Way for Greater Austin’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) is a diverse network of young professionals under the age of 40 who are passionate about helping kids and families overcome economic barriers. Through unique networking events, meaningful volunteering and learning opportunities, members leverage their collective power to connect, serve and grow. Membership is open to donors giving $250 or more annually to United Way for Greater Austin. Each month, we’ll help you get to know YLS members through a spotlight! Stay tuned for member interviews each month. January 2018 Member Spotlight: Rose Ann Garza Rose Ann Garza is a longtime supporter of United Way for Greater Austin and and has been a YLS member since 2014.   What does your job entail? Ultimately, I take care of our team from start to finish-everything from ensuring we are making our new team members feel welcome to benefits and compensation, incentives, etc. The People Operations team ensures our team feels treated fairly, appreciated and that they have a safe and happy place to work in, something everyone deserves but sadly not everyone gets.   Why do you choose to support UWATX? I have always been passionate about giving back to the community in which I reside. Growing up it was part of who we were as a family-I continue to consider volunteerism a part of who I am to this day and am grateful to have been raised with such a focus on others. When I first came to Central Texas for […]

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Partner Spotlight: Foundation Communities’ Free Tax Help Returns $33.8M to Hard-Working Families

While Austin is a city brimming with opportunities, many families find simply affording our city a growing challenge, this is particularly true for families raising children. One critical provision preventing many of Austin’s low- and moderate-income families with children from sliding into poverty are tax returns bolstered by the refundable credits – the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit. It can be a relatively substantial infusion of cash for families making ends meet with low or unpredictable incomes and may be the only opportunity a family has to purchase a vehicle, pay a large security deposit, or address a pressing repair. Foundation Communities is a long-time partner of United Way for Greater Austin and has been a cornerstone of this family-sustaining work. In addition to ensuring hard-working families can access their full tax returns for free, they offer a service designed to be convenient, trustworthy, and available year-round. “I’m grateful to all of our volunteers and community partners, including United Way, who make it possible for us to provide free, high-quality tax preparation services each year,” shared Kori Hattemer, Director of Financial Programs at Foundation Communities. “We couldn’t offer this vital community service without their time, commitment and energy. Our tax centers save hard-working families thousands in tax preparation fees and, this year, returned nearly $34 million in refunds to the local economy.” More than 600 volunteers dedicated their time to assisting families, coming together to achieve an incredibly tangible impact. People relying on private tax preparation […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Jimmy, Jenny & Cristian

On Wednesday, May 17, United Way for Greater Austin celebrated the contributions of students in UWATX’s Youth Engaged in Service (YES!) program at Webb Early College Prep Academy. The YES! program has been an opportunity for students to learn about philanthropy and volunteerism while exploring careers throughout the Austin community.  Students have gone on field trips to local companies and non-profits and have completed tons of volunteer hours on projects after school. Our staff sat down with a few phenomenal Middle School volunteers to learn more about what volunteerism means to them. Jenny Dominguez (J-Dog), Jimmy Aguirre (Bigfoot) and Cristian Dominguez (C-Money) are Webb students who participated in the YES! program and were are excited to share their thoughts with you.   What was the most fun volunteer experience so far for you? Jimmy  |  I liked last week when we planted plants and helped the environment. Cristian |  Painting a giant Jenga set at the MLK Day of Service in 2015. Jenny |  Visiting the Austin Humane Society to donate toys and play with a puppy.   What is an issue that is important to you? Jimmy |  World hunger, because if we go hungry, we won’t survive! Jenny |  Getting a new phone, it freezes a lot and it’s slow. Cristian |  So many issues! I want to government to not use bombs or start wars.   What do you want to be when you grow up? Jenny |  A basketball player for the Austin Spurs. Cristian |  the President of the United States. Jimmy | […]

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Día de los Niños 2017

As part of Project HOPES, our Success By 6 Outreach Coordinator, Marilyn Manzo, led the second annual Día de los Niños event in congruence with Child Abuse Prevention Month. The event was held at Allan Elementary on April 29, 2017 and generated more than 150 referrals for early childhood programs. More than 300 attendees enjoyed a petting zoo, free face painting, healthy snacks donated by HEB & Community Sync, music, and developmentally appropriate activities. In addition, more than 100 developmentally appropriate books were given away for free to families during the event. Family Support Network and School Readiness Action Plan participants included: AVANCE, Any Baby Can, BookSpring, The Literacy Coalition of Central Texas, Communities in Schools, Vela, Mama Sana, Vroom, YMCA, Child Inc., Si Se Puede, and the Austin Public Library. The implementation, planning, and outreach for the event was truly a group effort that contributed to the success of the event. See all event photos here!   

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Celebrating Kerbey Lane Cafe

Kerbey Lane Cafe just wrapped up their fourth employee giving campaign and, thanks to their incredible team, it was huge success. Between their seven store locations, Kerbey team members donated over $37,000 to UWATX. Kerbey team members also volunteered over 650 hours giving back to the community. In addition to volunteer activities staff members, Rose Ann, Amanda and Karli, also committed months of work preparing, planning and helping to execute the first annual Ruthless Good event. Kerbey Lane volunteers are always the last to leave a project and can always be counted on to do the dirty work! If we need help, we know that we can count on Kerbey Lane to show up, never stop moving and stay until the place is cleaner than we found it. Kerbey attracts creative and passionate employees and it has been a great asset to have them in on the planning stages of major events, or to give them a paintbrush and see what they can do with a playground. Volunteers from Kerbey Lane Café can be counted on to participate in every Day of Caring that we host.  They often work on a variety of projects that support health and access to food, along with projects that support the early childhood development centers that they are so passionate about. Each Kerbey Lane location is paired with a local child development center and organizes projects to support the children and teachers at their designated center throughout the year. Over the last four years, Kerbey Lane volunteers […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Mary Velarde

Mary Velarde is a Literacy Coach with United Way’s Success by 6 programming.  In the Literacy Coaching Project, Classroom Coaches are placed in child care center classrooms serving children ages 3-5 for the length of a school year. The coaches are trained to deliver age-appropriate, engaging early math and literacy games and activities during the day– these are usually provided in small group or one-on-one settings.  As an AmeriCorps member, Mary has dedicated this year to supporting students in this program and it’s easy to see that she will continue to have a huge impact on our Austin community when she is done.  We asked Mary about her experience as a volunteer, and she was happy to share her answers with us: Why do you think it is important to give back? I think it is important to give back to our community because it strengthens communities, improves the lives of the people we serve, and provides the tools they need to succeed in life. What inspires you to volunteer? I’m inspired to volunteer because I know I will make a positive difference in the lives of those I serve, which I believe will then have a greater impact for our community; it will strengthen our community. Another reason why I am inspired to volunteer is because it transforms my life and those I serve and it becomes a rewarding experience.  I like to encourage others to volunteer because through volunteer work, individuals are able to discover more about themselves that […]

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