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Lights On Afterschool

Dismissal bells ring around the country at about 3 p.m. every day. For many students, this where learning stops – TV, hanging out with friends, or spending time at home alone make up the rest of their days. For others, the end of the school day signals the beginning of a new adventure. Conventional knowledge of afterschool programs makes little distinction between daycare and the dynamic range of activities available to today’s youth. However, children and teens in afterschool programs receive so much more than supervision. Today’s afterschool programs offer everything from cooking classes to program coding, and offer a broad menu of hobbies and skill-building. Additionally, afterschool programs provide a safe and supervised space for adolescents, especially older students, during the time of the day when they are most likely to engage in crime and risky behavior. Studies show that students participating in high-quality afterschool programs display improved behavior and lower levels of absenteeism, earn higher grades, and perform better on tests compared to non-participating students. 19% of Texas students spend the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. alone and unsupervised. Today, on the 15th annual Lights On Afterschool Day, students, parents, and programs across the nation are celebrating afterschool programs as a crucial space for youth to grow and thrive. In Texas, 18% of students participate in an afterschool program. However, 19% of Texas students spend the hours between 3 and 6 p.m. alone and unsupervised. There is still much work to be done in order to provide afterschool enrichment to all students. United Way for […]

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Census Data Reveals Dramatic Increase In Poverty for Bastrop County

For the first time since the Bastrop wildfires in late 2011, census data is confirming what many already know – there is great community need in Bastrop County. The number of people living in poverty in Bastrop County has doubled (7,783 to 16,698!) There is a decrease in the number of residents that are of working age and an increase in more vulnerable populations, including children and the elderly.  The poverty rate in Bastrop County was relatively stable (11-12%) over the last decade, but the most recent census data shows that now 23% of Bastrop County residents (nearly one in four) are living in poverty. The number of homeowners in Bastrop County declined, and there are now more renters than in the past. Renters are more likely than homeowners to be cost burdened and pay a third or more of their income on housing. United Way for Greater Austin knows that individuals and families who have limited expendable income may have difficulty making ends meet. Luckily, our Navigation Center is able to connect them to local resources like rent and utility assistance or food resources simply by dialing 2-1-1.  To date, Bastrop County continues to rank second in per capita calls to 2-1-1 out of our ten county region, second only to Travis County. This year, a higher percentage of 2-1-1 callers from Bastrop are requesting basic needs assistance and health resources than in 2013 (79% vs. 73%).  UWATX continues to serve the community through a variety of Strategic Programs and involvement in at-risk communities, such as Manor, Dove […]

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Spotlight: Laura Olson

Join us in welcoming Laura Olson to the UWATX team as the Family Services Coordinator for Success by 6! Laura sat down with us to give us a bit of her background and share what she hopes to accomplish in her new role with United Way. What is your background, both in the community and professionally, prior to working with United Way?  I have lived in Austin for twenty years. I’ve been working in education since I graduated from Earlham College where I got my B.A. in Spanish. I was a high school Spanish teacher and grade school teacher for eight years prior to having my children. Most of those years were spent teaching at the Austin Waldorf School and working to bring a holistic, artistic learning experience to children. I am the mother of five children ranging in ages 2 ½ to 15. Having my own children opened my eyes to the challenges and joys of parenthood, and brought about a desire to support families with young children in their journeys. It became clear to me how critical pregnancy and the first few years of life are in the formation of a child’s health, as well as that of his/her family. Following the footsteps of my mother and grandmother (both early childhood professionals) and because of my own personal passion, I served as the Director of Blossom Family Center, a parent education and resource center. I then served as Regional Director for LifeWays North America, where I trained caregivers and parents in […]

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City Council Candidate Forums Recap

Success By 6 hosted eight Austin City Council candidate forums in settings all over Austin to learn more about the candidates’ views on issues affecting families with young children. More than 40 of the 78 candidates participated in the non-partisan, positive conversations, and dozens of community residents took the chance to ask questions and learn more about the aspiring civic leaders. “My faith in democracy soared as I participated in these forums. The candidates were thoughtful, warm, and well-informed – and they truly want to serve their communities. After the elections, I plan to stay in touch with not only the new council members, but also with the cadre of amazing candidates who didn’t win. It is inspiring to see and hear their passion about our beautiful city and the neighborhoods they live in. I wish I could vote for more than one!”   Sue Carpenter, VP, Success By 6. When Austinites head to the ballot box this fall, we will be making decisions that will dramatically shake up the leadership structure of our community. Not only will we be electing a new mayor, but our influential city council will have at least nine new members – with one representative for each of ten newly formed districts. The council makes crucial decisions about how our city is managed and how to spend our precious tax dollars. Our goal for the forums was to learn more about each candidate – many who have never run for office before – and to […]

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The Other Side of Austin: Census Data Reveals Continued Poverty

Austin Residents Struggle to Make Ends Meet 300K+  individuals struggling to make ends meet   150K+ Austin residents living in poverty   16K+ local children under the age of 6 living in poverty   Austin is a city that is known for many things. We love our dogs, can’t get enough live music or Tex-Mex, and take pride in the slogan, ‘Keep Austin Weird.’ We are also the fastest-growing city in the nation – more than 100 people move to Austin every day. What many are unaware of is that more than 300K greater Austin residents are classified as low-income and face barriers to economic opportunity.  This is a serious concern for many families who struggle to make ends meet – it takes a household income of $50K annually for a family of four to break even! According to the most recent census data, 150K+ Austin residents live below the federal poverty level. Of these, more than 16K residents are children who are under the age of 6.   UWATX Helps Alleviate and Reduce Poverty    UWATX addresses community needs through our Strategic Programs including: Financial Opportunity, Target Graduation and Success By 6.  We know that preparing children for kindergarten and keeping them on the path to high school graduation is a strong indicator for their success down the road. We also provide financial literacy tools for their parents, so that both generations can thrive simultaneously. Our Navigation Center is able to connect individuals who call 2-1-1 to human services, […]

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Target Graduation End of Year Results: “The services are valuable, needed and much appreciated!”

Target Graduation 2014 End of Year Results United Way for Greater Austin is pleased to report that our Target Graduation program served more than 1,500 students through Middle School Matters during the past academic year with more than 400 students utilizing three or more services. Target Graduation, which focuses on boosting lagging graduation rates, was able to work closely with campus administration and local agencies to fund coordination of more than one million dollars’ worth of support services that meet individual students needs at Decker, Mendez and Webb Middle School. Middle School Matters, an initiative of Target Graduation, focuses on improving campus culture for these three low-income middle schools in the Greater Austin area so that students may improve their academic performance and stay on the path to graduation and success. In 2014, more than 3,000 interventions were provided to students in areas including mentoring, tutoring, case management, out-of-school time, parent education and behavioral health. What’s more, 90% of teachers think these support services positively impact their student’s academic performance. Target Graduation’s Summer Learning Camp also provided students with the opportunity to continue their learning during valuable out-of-school time. While at camp, students engaged in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) skill-building and learned everything from outdoor skills to filmmaking and volunteer leadership. View the complete Target Graduation 2014 End of Year Results. What Teachers are Saying about Middle School Matters Feedback from teachers and administrators indicates that Target Graduation is playing an important role in their schools. According to one response in the 2014 […]

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2014 Day of Caring – September 26, 2014

A record number of volunteers participated in United Way of Williamson County’s annual Day of Caring held on September 26, 2014. More than 220 volunteers provided in excess of 650 hours of time in their efforts to complete 19 local community service projects across Williamson County. Communities served by United Way of Williamson County volunteers included Cedar Park, Leander, Hutto, Georgetown, Round Rock and Taylor. Volunteers read to preschoolers in Taylor ISD, painted the Head Start facilities in Hutto, and expanded gardens at elementary schools in Round Rock ISD and Leander ISD. Others sorted donations and organized thrift store items at Round Rock Area Serving Center, The Caring Place, Shepherd’s Heart Food Pantry, Hill Country Community Ministries, Annunciation Maternity Home and Hope Alliance. Williamson County Parks and local municipalities welcomed volunteers to assist with park clean up, beautification projects and trail development. The City of Round Rock made their Tool Lending Center available to volunteer projects across Round Rock. The Day of Caring is an annual event that coincides with the start of the annual United Way of Williamson County campaign and focuses on helping local nonprofit agencies, schools and communities complete projects that will benefit residents across Williamson County. Many special thanks to our Day of Caring sponsors. We are grateful for your support of our volunteers and our community.

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Success By 6 Center Project Results

The need for services Anyone who has a toddler of their own, or has spent any amount of time around a 2-year-old, knows that these tiny tots can be quite a handful! 11:1 The state-approved child-to-teacher ratio for 2-year-olds in Texas child care centers In Texas, the state approved child-to-teacher ratio for this age group in child care centers is 11:1. Can you imagine? Up to twenty-two energetic children being cared for by only two sets of hands! Now, picture the same scenario where many of the children struggle academically or have behavior challenges and there are a serious lack of resources available to their instructors. United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 program works with 12 local child care centers that serve low-income children to help them meet and keep high-quality standards by providing an array of support services that positively impact students and teachers. Success this year This past year, more than 900 children and 180+ teachers benefited from UWATX’s Center Project, which leverages in-kind support to provide resources, teacher training and professional development, social-emotional learning and director mentoring. 900 children served   180+ teachers impacted   1,500 hours of skilled substitute care Through the substitute pool, UWATX substitutes provided more than 1,500 hours of care in these centers. Success By 6 knows that just because a classroom isn’t lead by the usual instructor, we cannot afford to let a day’s worth of valuable learning go to waste! After assessing more than 250 children, the Center Project results from […]

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Fall Day of Caring: A volunteer’s perspective

Some might think that going out to work in a garden the day after torrential rains would be a not-so great idea. How much mud are you going to encounter? Will the flower beds and vegetable patches be flooded? Will it be gross? Those are some of the questions that might come up. It had rained pretty hard the night before the Austin American-Statesman volunteers were scheduled to volunteer in the JJ Pickle Elementary School garden. Because of this, we showed up in rain boots and rain coats, hats and hooded jackets. By the time we arrived at the school, there were menacing clouds gathering again in the sky, but these provided a great cover for us as we gathered our tools and listened to the instructions for the day. Our volunteer leader, Judith Hutchinson, greeted us with coffee and donuts. She was happy to see that we arrived in a school bus—very appropriate for our volunteering location. We huddled in front of the bus for a picture, and then we were off to the gardens. Judith showed us where all the tools were and gave us plenty of options of where to start and what to improve. There was more than enough enthusiasm to go around. Plenty of fresh green weeds to pull from the raised vegetable beds, and soft, crumbly dirt to turn over with a shovel. We emptied a pond in order to make room for fresh water, trimmed flower bushes and made sure the sprouting vegetables […]

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Austin Mayoral Debate Recap

Five Austin mayoral candidates tackled affordability, early childhood education and the need for high quality childcare and after school programs on Wednesday at the newly re-opened Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. Catherine Morse, general counsel/director of public affairs at Samsung Austin Semiconductor and board chair for UWATX, moderated the debate, which was attended by more than 300 people and featured candidates Todd Phelps, Councilman Mike Martinez, Randall Stephens, Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole and Steven Adler. Below we’ve provided the entire debate on video. Take a look to learn how each candidate stands on United Way for Greater Austin’s key issues: [youtube]http://youtu.be/G0JcRuC9zGs[/youtube]   David Orshalick, a candidate not in attendance, provided his answers in writing. Ronald Culver, another candidate not in attendance, also provided his responses in writing. Please click on each man’s name to view their responses.  A big thank you to our host committee and Balcones Resources, our title sponsor, for making this event possible. Who do you think provided the best answers in this week’s debate? Let us know in the comments or tweet us with hashtag #uwatxdebate.

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