Blog

One of the many teachers we appreciate

Since it’s National Teacher Day and Teacher Appreciation Week, we are saying a warm & heartfelt thank you to one of the many teachers that make our work possible and support Austin’s students: Mr. Bavu Blakes, 7th Grade English Language Arts & Reading Teacher at Decker Middle School.  In case you need to get inspired, we asked Bavu some questions about his teaching philosophy – the answers are guaranteed to give you some warm and fuzzies.    Why did you decide to go into teaching?  I am a scholar. I have always been that way.  I am an avid reader and writer.  I was interested in teaching at the college level but I wanted to work in my community (he lives in Decker attendance zone) .  I wanted to serve my community and the young people.  Also, I remember my 8th grade English teacher.  She changed the course of history for me.  That’s why. As an English Language Arts teacher, I get to teach a subject that affects all parts of their life. Writing, reading, listening and speaking are the foundation of all things we do. Bavu Blakes, 7th Grade Teacher at Decker Middle School  What is your teaching philosophy? Teaching is about building relationships with children.  I see it as my job to identify what they need and how to teach them.  As an English Language Arts teacher, I get to teach a subject that affects all parts of their life. Writing, reading, listening and speaking are the foundation of all things […]

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WLC rounds out another year of helping Austin children

The United Way Women’s Leadership Council just wrapped up another successful year – and the results speak for themselves: “Anytime a group of women leaders are focused on the social and economic challenges in Greater Austin; the focus brings results.” Kathleen Farlow, Managing Partner, Deloitte Austin The WLC is a powerful group of professional women who have a deep passion for helping Austin’s youngest and most vulnerable children. Through advocacy, volunteer efforts and donations, they make sure that Austin’s future is on the right track. This past year, the WLC members gave an astonishing $400K to support our most vulnerable community members. I have the privilege of supporting this inspiring group – but their own words speak to the value of this group much more powerfully that I could: A HUGE thank you to all of the dedicated women who have come together to support young children this year! Of course, the work is never done, so right now, the WLC is supporting the Steiner Serves effort that selected our Success By 6 (SB6) program as their May beneficiary and working on a book drive to help centers in our SB6 Center Project.  Learn more about the efforts of the WLC and the great women that lead this work.   Want to learn more? Tell us:  [pardot-form id=”6638″ title=”Email marketing – welcome series”]

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Celebrate STEM education!

With Austin’s booming tech scene, Science Technology Engineering and Math (or STEM) skills are critical for most future jobs in Austin. This week, as cities across Texas celebrate STEM education, experts from our Target Graduation program curated a list of activities and experiments to teach STEM skills in the classroom or at home with just a few supplies.  Follow United Way for Greater Austin’s board STEM Week Texas Activities on Pinterest. These activities are appropriate for students from elementary school through high school, but you’ll see different responses depending on the age of participants. If you want to see more, check out our Pinterest board for links to sites with more ideas.  We support STEM education locally by evaluating programs for low-income students to make sure they meet quality standards and providing young children with STEM learning opportunities.    Have you found an interesting, easy-to-implement science or math activity? Share in the comments!  Feature photo by Nicholas Nova via Flickr Creative Commons. 

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Three months of volunteering in ONE day

Yesterday, more than 700 volunteers joined us for Spring Day of Caring – a citywide call for volunteers managed by our Hands On Central Texas program. In total, volunteers gave 2,100 hours yesterday, which is the equivalent of 87 days of day-and-night volunteering.  Here’s what YOU had to say about the event:  [<a href=”//storify.com/uwatx/800-give-back-for-spring-day-of-caring” target=”_blank”>View the story “700+ give back for Spring Day of Caring ” on Storify</a>]   Volunteer teams came from 21 companies to participate, including Freescale, H-E-B, Austin Coca-Cola, Intel, Target, ADP, JE Dunn, Dell, Workplace Resources, CLS Partners, Nordstrom Rack, Liquidation Channel, Kerbey Lane, Texas Instruments, Epicor Software, AT&T and more!  It was great to see the smiling faces of volunteers as they gave back to make Austin greater:  [AFG_gallery id=’12’] Did you participate? Share you story & picts at our Facebook event!    [<a href=”//storify.com/uwatx/800-give-back-for-spring-day-of-caring” target=”_blank”>View the story “700+ give back for Spring Day of Caring ” on Storify</a>]

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WOW – YLSers sure did make Austin greater the past two weeks!

We just wrapped up the YLS Virtual Giveathon – and  I for one couldn’t be more excited about the results:    These efforts directly support our Target Graduation program and help low-income students stay on the path to graduation. I am so proud to be involved in a group that not only volunteers their time, but also leverages their giving and their connections to make our community greater for ALL Austinites. A huge THANK YOU to everyone who participated – donors, fundraisers & all!  And among all the amazing results, one individual particularly blew me away: going into this process, Ward Hoffman was nervous about asking his friends for support and unsure he’d reach his goal. Today, he’s the fundraiser who inspired the highest number of donors – congrats and thank you, Ward!   All in all, the Young Leaders Society members had lots of clever and heart-warming appeals that show why they were inspired to take this on:      And if that wasn’t enough, here’s what a few more things YLS fundraisers had to say:  These types of experiences led me to one unavoidable conclusion: we only have each other. Life absolutely isn’t fair. The kindness of every day people is one of the only tools we have to at least make life…livable. — Andrew Castillo, 3M You know middle school can be crazy, incredibly awkward, and just no fun. Luckily YLS has people here to help. The money YOU donate goes to help these kids and in the spirit […]

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My love affair with Austin’s aggressive optimism

As our organization celebrates 90 years of serving this community and growing up alongside Austin, I’ve been reflecting on what brought me to this area in the 1970s – and it’s striking to realize that the mix of optimism and creativity that drew me here all those years ago is still what fuels my work in social justice to this day.  While I had visited Austin all throughout my childhood (and skied over snakes every summer in Ink’s Lake), by young adulthood, I was traveling around the west coast in a minivan, drawn to the next great artistic adventure.  I went to California to live in a redwood forest and restore trees to an area that had been devastated by a sawmill. I moved to New Mexico to live in an adobe house and run a 2,000 acres farm for a stunt man. When I came back to Texas, it was for the soil and the trees – I bought 50 acres of land in Bastrop that I still live on today and started an organic farm.  Austin had the perfect combination for me: I could live in the country (which feeds my soul) and I could be near artists at the same time. More than anything, Austin had and still has this aggressive optimism that says “you can do anything – make it happen.”   Austin has this aggressive optimism that says “you can do anything – make it happen.”  So I did: I grew organic vegetables and sold them to what […]

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Education shouldn’t end when the school day does

80 percent Portion of students’ WAKING hours spent outside of school  According to the most pervasive narrative, school is the place where students gain critical academic skills that will determine their success later in life and students attend school as it if were a job, mixed in with some opportunities for creativity and socializing. On the other hand, time spent outside of school, especially summer, is associated with vacation and leisure – but this narrative ignores the fact that students spend nearly 80 percent of their WAKING hours outside of school.  Out of School Time (OST) refers to the after-school hours, mornings before school, weekends and summer that make up the bulk of students’ time . In a state where 68% of students come from households where both parents work, OST programs keep kids safe, supported and engaged after the bell rings Unfortunately, OST programs are not meeting the needs of our community – only one in three of OST sites offer enough days to positively impact students and less than a quarter of low-income students are participating in OST programs at the recommended level.  The result is that low-income students face a substantial disadvantage because of a lack of summer programs: they lose reading skills and tech literacy in the summer months, where their high-income peers with more access to books and technology actually benefit from the summer months. In all, half of the achievement gap can be attributed to summer learning inequalities.  We are working to change this story […]

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Meet Raul Sanchez

It’s no secret that Austin, Texas is great, arguably the envy of the world: it’s the live music capital, boasts a roaring economy, has shown up on countless “Best Cities For” lists and is rapidly growing because of it. These things are obvious to us locals. What us natives might not realize is why Austin is greater: it’s greater because of Raul Sanchez.  Sanchez has been an educator for more than a decade, starting in his own back yard in the Rio Grande Valley and currently serving the St. John community as Principal of Webb Middle School, one of the schools in our Target Graduation program. The son of immigrants from Mexico, Sanchez feels great kinship with the children he works with everyday.  “The Rio Grande Valley didn’t need me like Webb needs me – we have kids who are moving so much, who have a lot of challenges in their family from homelessness to mental illness and more. Thanks to United Way, we can provide wrap-around help for all of these issues. That means my teachers and I can focus on learning.” – Raul Sanchez Principal, Webb Middle School  “When I see the children we serve, I see myself,” said Sanchez in a recent conversation with Celso Baez, a founding member of our Young Leaders Society who has volunteered at Webb Middle School. “I am the youngest of 14 children and the first person in my family to go to college. My parents don’t have a formal education. I started out very much like […]

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Insurance industry exceeded goal!

Last night, the insurance community came together to celebrate an incredible achievement: in it’s first year, the Insurance Industry Challenge exceeded their goal of $300,000 by raising $371,096!  This substantial increase – raising 56 percent more than last year – will make a significant impact on our community by helping children start school on-track, supporting students in the critical middle school period and ensuring families have the tools they need to thrive.  To make this happen, many insurance companies, industry associations, trade publications and individuals came together to support community change through United Way for Greater Austin – and we couldn’t be more grateful for their efforts.  [AFG_gallery id=’11’] The Austin Insurance Industry Challenge (IIC) demonstrates what happens when there is passion, focus and commitment to making Austin Greater. Thanks to everyone who participated!  Want to get involved with the Insurance Industry Challenge in 2014? Let us know! 

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It’s for the kids!

A year ago, we relaunched the Young Leaders Society with a few big changes – an increased focus on volunteerism, a strong connection to UWATX’s Target Graduation program and the opportunity to give or raise $1,000 per year to make Austin greater. Today, YLS members are kicking off the YLS Virtual Giveathon to help keep students on the path to graduation.  Since then, YLS members have planted trees, done campus clean ups, chaperoned dances and supported student volunteer leaders – and we enjoyed a lot of football. We’ve also worked with the students at Decker Middle School to advocate – and the state awarded $1.5 million to build them a sidewalk!   All of that has led up to this two-week period where we start truly advocating for the students we’ve worked alongside – in their own words, a lack of funds is often what keeps them from accomplishing all that they want to. I’m sure you can remember how hard (and let’s be honest, so very, VERY awkward) middle school can be. And for many of us, that was without the added challenges poverty brings.  I’ve volunteered directly on the three middle school campuses we support (Decker, Mendez and Webb) and alongside the students UWATX empowers to make change in their communities and seen the impact of our work directly. Seeing the impact UWATX’s work makes in these students’ lives makes it easy for me to ask for support and help other YLSers make their requests as well. In the last few weeks, […]

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