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Get to know your city

Austin is an amazing city to live and work in. We know because UWATX has been serving this city for 90 years.  We recently compiled a history of this wonderful community in our ‘United for 90 Years’ Timeline to celebrate the culture and growth of Greater Austin. If you’re looking for a fun summer activity, we’ve not turned the timeline into a map to help Austinites plan a scavenger hunt of our city’s history – including the FIRST headquarters of United Way for Greater Austin!      See an iconic Austin spot missing? Let us know in the comments! 

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Latest news: Austin American-Statesman view on pre-K

On Monday, the Austin American-Statesman featured our work in early childhood education and the unique challenges for our young children in Austin. The article highlighted our School Readiness Action Plan – an ambitious three-year plan to increase the percent of children who enter kindergarten ready for school to 70 percent by 2015.  As a follow up, today the Austin American-Statesman Editorial Board published their view on early childhood education, saying “…pre-K programs [are] a necessary asset for Texas children.” You can read the full article below:   Better pre-K means better future Texans By AAS Editoral Board  Wednesday, July 9 Pre-kindergarten is vital for the success of any child’s education. Aside from getting students ready for kindergarten, pre-K reduces use of special education services, lowers grade retention and improves high school graduation rates. Studies also have shown that children who attend high-quality pre-K programs have higher earnings as adults and are less likely to be dependent on welfare.Yet in Travis County, about half the area’s youngest students aren’t ready to enter kindergarten despite many efforts by local school districts, nonprofits and foundations, the American-Statesman’s Julie Chang reported Monday. An influx of new students every year, poverty and language barriers complicate the mission. With more academics being presented in kindergarten, children need a pre-academic foundation before entering that grade. In pre-K, kids not only learn new words, numbers and problem-solving skills, but they also learn social skills such as how to pay attention in class and interact with other students. Despite the difficulties, […]

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Partner Profile: Kerbey Lane Cafe

Name: Kerbey Lane Cafe Partner for: 1.5 years Partner for: Employee Campaign, Hands On Central Texas   Our relationship: Giving back in a variety of ways Creating a year-round, focused philanthropic initiative Kerbey Lane Cafe started their philanthropic efforts with UWATX as volunteers – they sponsored Fall Day of Caring and their team participated in volunteer projects. Through these efforts, they were able to get a first-hand look at what UWATX does in the community and who their dollars, advocacy and time could support – our friends and neighbors who struggle to make ends meet. Their efforts were so spectacular, that they won the 2013 Excellence in Volunteerism Award!  Through these efforts, their team identified the Success By 6 Center Project as a key area they wanted to support – and they’ve done it: specific locations adopted centers in the project to support with in-kind efforts and volunteering. Each location also has a philanthropic liaison who works to connect their team to the community during their Employee Campaign but also throughout the rest of the year – an important Best Practice for effectively engaging employees around giving and building a corporate responsibility plan.  Finding ways to give that fit company culture  Mason Ayer, CEO of Kerbey Lane Café, is strongly focused on culture – and creating a philanthropic focus is part of those efforts. Knowing their staff is unique, the team at Kerbey Lane has found special ways to give back that fit their culture, including:  Just eating a yummy brunch and saw this on […]

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We have an obligation to make Austin greater

Like many people, my original exposure to United Way was through an Employee Giving Campaign – when a speaker from one of United Way’s partner agencies came to our staff meeting and talked about the difference that United Way made. The story was compelling, so I became a donor. At that point, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the big picture of United Way in the community. Over the years, I was exposed to more and more stories through our company’s campaign, and I even got involved in our company’s Day of Caring. I began to see some of the direct effects of United Way’s work and that, through UWATX, we were all making a difference in a broad way, but I still wasn’t where I am today.  The big change happened about a year ago when I was approached about being involved in the relaunch of the Young Leaders Society.  From the start, it was clear that this was going to be a different kind of philanthropic group. It was one that was going to make a difference for a specific group kids during one of the hardest times in their life – middle school. I remembered my own middle school experience, and how awkward and difficult everything seemed. I can’t imagine going through that along with the financial, family and language challenges that some of these kids have. So, I jumped at the opportunity to support the Target Graduation program through financial contributions and volunteer projects. Giving is about more than the money. It […]

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9 local businesses making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the eighth part of our series, we bring you nine local businesses invested in giving back. We’re a city that prides itself on our weirdness – and a big part of what makes Austin different is how much we love local business and how many businesses come from Austin. We’re a city that nurtures small businesses and attracts entrepreneurs – and we’re also a city that gives back. In that spirit, we are highlighting 9 businesses that are both homegrown in Austin and give back to our community. 1. Alt Creative Alt Creative is an interactive design agency that makes giving back a core part of their work – they blog about the importance of small business being philanthropic and even have a page on their site dedicated to their philanthropic impact. In 2013, they were a finalist for the AustinGives GeneroCity Awards. 2. Kerbey Lane (UWATX Partner) Besides making delicious pancakes, Kerbey Lane also makes our community better. The iconic Austin restaurant was founded in 1980 on the idea that food should be fresh and locally grown, and to this day, they continue to support local farms and producers. They also make time for employee volunteering projects through our Hands On Central Texas program, adopted local child care centers through our Success By 6 Center Project and are active in other community efforts. Kerbey Lane is truly a company committed to make Austin greater […]

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Two years in, we’re seeing results for young children

A kindergarten-ready child:• Interacts positively with children and adults• Is curious and loves learning new things• Can focus and pay attention to adults, other children, a book or task• Is generally happy and can manage his or her emotions• Has age-appropriate language, thinking, and physical skills Today, we are releasing the Year 2 Update of the School Readiness Action Plan – a report to the community highlighting the changes we’ve made in the landscape of early childhood services over the past two years. In 2012, our team in the Success By 6 program at UWATX led a strong coalition of early childhood advocates, experts, parents, and business leaders to work collaboratively to transform the early childhood system in Travis County and together, we created and published the 2012-15 School Readiness Action Plan. The plan catalyzed a movement – with multiple work groups, policy advocates, and service providers championing improvements in services for young children and their families. We are proud to present our second annual progress report to the community so that individuals can join our celebration of successes and help us overcome the barriers that continue to impede our work. What we’ve done so far:  1. Provided new tools for parents to get informed To help parents get relevant information about their babies and toddlers, we promoted low-cost electronic messaging systems, like Text4baby and ReadyRosie that send regular messages to parents calibrated to the age of their child. As a result of our efforts, enrollment in Text4baby has increased by […]

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AJ is spending his summer learning

instead of staying home alone while his mother works, AJ is coming to Decker each day, where he is currently working through interactive lessons about outdoor skills and environmental science – in the second half, he’ll concentrate on visual art and film. AJ Resendez describes himself as a ten-year old boy, born and raised in Austin, TX, who loves swimming, dodgeball, and the color blue. This summer he has joined the ranks of 70+ other middle school students who will learn new skills and make new friends at our Middle School Matters Summer Program at Decker Middle School, part of our Target Graduation program.  “I have always lived in Austin – born and raised,” says AJ.  “It’s really fun, and I like living here because you get to meet people from around the world and learn about them.” This summer, instead of staying home alone while his mother works, AJ is coming to Decker each day, where he is currently working through interactive lessons about outdoor skills and environmental science – in the second half, he’ll concentrate on visual art and film. Because of the program, AJ will have more opportunities to learn, stay active, and get to know the middle school he will attend in the fall. At the same time, Decker benefits from AJ’s cooperation and easy smile.   AJ just graduated from fifth grade at Pioneer Crossing elementary where he served as student council president. When asked if he campaigned for the position, he simply shook his head and said that he was chosen by […]

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9 volunteers making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the seventh part of our series, we bring you nine volunteers changing Austin.  Austin is known for our volunteering spirit – nearly 30 percent of Austinites invest their time in making our community even better. We’re proud to work with thousands of these dedicated community members through our Hands On Central Texas program, Austin’s largest volunteer network. Approximately 1 in every 17 volunteers in Austin interacts with our program, so we thought we’d take a second to highlight a few of these truly outstanding volunteers.    1. Ryan Melendez, BB&T Ryan not only teaches families about banking and managing money in English and in Spanish, but also builds confidence in our families by showing their impact on the economy.  Ryan’s been a wonderful volunteer by teaching financial education and conducting outreach for UWATX’s Bank On Central Texas initiative.   2. Tom Wald, former Executive Director of Bike Austin Tom brought his cycling expertise to a group of Decker Middle School Volunteer Leaders who were passionate about securing a bike lane or sidewalk on the route to their campus. He helped the students understand safety laws and ultimately get in front of TXDOT to share their stories and letters of advocacy which helped to secure priority funding for a Decker sidewalk that will ensure a safe passage to and from school.   3. Jennifer Healy, Target Jennifer’s […]

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75+ students in Manor ISD are getting a quality summer program!

Today, we launched a two-year pilot initiative: a summer program at Decker Middle School designed to provide more than 75 low-income fifth, sixth and seventh grade students in Manor ISD with summer learning opportunities. The 7 week-long initiative includes: UWATX’s Hands On Central Texas —Austin’s largest volunteer network — will conduct weekly volunteer activities where staff lead on-campus volunteer projects aimed to introduce students to philanthropy at an early age and help them improve their own school. This builds on our success leading Volunteer Project Leader classes at Decker MS.  National Summer Learning Day on Friday, June 20, in which students will team up with UWATX’s Young Leader Society members to guide advocacy letter writing about the importance of summer and afterschool programs as part of a larger, nation-wide effort. Texas Association of Minorities in Engineering event on Tuesday, July 22 in which TAME’s “Trailblazer Bus”—the only interactive science and engineering museum-on-wheels in Texas—will be stationed at Decker Middle School to provide STEM-based activities for the students. Creative Action will offer film production classes where students will be able to produce a film based on a social issue they identify in their community. Additionally, Creative Action will offer an art visual program in which students will develop their skills as individual artists. Camp Fire will offer a leadership program aimed to build leadership skills and introduce participants to STEM-based professionals. We’ve been serving Decker Middle School for three years as part of Target Graduation, which focuses services on the critical middle school period […]

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Nine young professionals making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the sixth part of our series, we bring you nine young professionals changing Austin.  Austin’s a city of entrepreneurs, innovators and philanthropists – and we’re a great city for young professionals, so it was difficult to determine who to highlight with so many talented Austinites. We chose to focus on individuals who made an impact on our community with a commitment to what makes Austin unique AND philanthropic efforts.    1. Dan Graham Dan Graham is founder and CEO of BuildASign.com. Dan has been named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2013 Central Texas, a 2012 best CEO by the Austin Business Journal, and Austin Under 40’s 2012 Austinite of the Year. He is on the Board of Directors for United Way for Greater Austin, Caritas of Austin and the Austin Chamber of Commerce. He is a mentor through Capital Factory and Incubation Station.   2. Julie Fisher Julie Fisher is the Public Affairs and Community Relations Specialist at Samsung Austin Semiconductor. Julie is heavily involved with UWATX. She mentors students weekly, is an Employee Campaign Leader for Samsung’s Employee Campaign, and on the Young Leaders Society Founding Committee. Photo: UWATX photo of Julie volunteering at Decker Middle School.   3. Luke Martinez Luke Martinez is Senior Vice President; Process Design Consultant at Bank of America. Very involved with UWATX, Luke is […]

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