Newsroom

When Dog Days Turn Into Summer Shade

The sun beats down as children from Sweetbriar Child Development Center file outside to the playground. The students, ranging in age from 18 months to five-years-old, scurry to the fence line instead of onto the playscape. Fighting for refuge from the sun’s rays, those who do not fit in the sliver of shade, provided by large oak tree branches that sag over the black iron fence, huddle under the play structure. This routine has been on repeat twice a day for more than two summers.   “We don’t want to go outside, it’s too hot,” is their rally cry. It’s something we can all relate to in the Texas summer heat.   According to an Austin American Statesman article, July in Austin was a scorcher. With 17 triple-digit days on record, the average temperature for the month of July came in just shy of 100 at 99 degrees. The last two weeks have been particularly brutal, with all 14 days in the triple digits.   “One afternoon we came to pick up our son,” Joshua Mauk, Sweetbriar parent shared “and he was huddled under the play structure because it was really hot and that was the only shade available.”   Something had to change but parents, teachers and even the Center Director alike did not know where to begin.   The Background and Beginning   Sweetbriar Child Development Center is located in the 78744 neighborhood that Go Austin Vamos Austin (GAVA), a resident-led coalition focused on community health and well-being, […]

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Company Culture that Creates Change: Texas Mutual

“Now let me start from the beginning,” Teresa Martinez, Texas Mutual Project Management, and Analysis Supervisor said. After leaving home at a young age Teresa found herself, a 17-year-old who didn’t finish high-school, working at Target with a young son at home and looking for more.   “I happened to notice a sign that read if you’re a youth and you are interested in something more than just your average job, call this number,” Teresa said. “So, I called the number on the sign and after going in and talking with counselors at the program, I called Youth Employment Services and found out that I qualified for help.”   Youth Employment Services, at the time, was a funded partner of United Way. The program helped her work towards her GED, obtain a driver’s license and most significantly, helped her get her son into childcare with Any Baby Can – a United Way affiliated partner. “That was my first introduction to United Way,” Teresa said.   Change-maker   As a 19 year Texas Mutual veteran, Teresa has eight years of United Way campaign coordination under her belt and has once again returned to the campaign as 2017 co-chair. Teresa was the volunteer special events coordinator for the United Way Campaign at Texas Mutual from 2007 – 2013 and during that time, along with the help of passionate coworkers, she organized fundraising events that allowed Texas Mutual Employees to give back to their community in a fun and rewarding way.   In […]

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In Good Hands, From Day One

It’s not news to us that Austin is growing at an astounding rate, with more than 150 people moving here daily. But there are other challenges that come with rapid growth, besides the traffic. A large number of those newcomers are moving here for job opportunities, and often early in their careers. This strong flow of young transplants means that many people living in Austin are far from their traditional support structures such as family and friends. When they start their own families in Austin, they’re unlikely to have access to the helpful community they’re used to leaning on.

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The Austin Summer Survival Guide, and Not the One You Would Think…

This is not your average summer survival guide. I am not here to talk about Float Fest or Amy’s Ice Cream. While both are great summer staples, the purpose of this survival guide is to provide our community with a list of resources that will make sure everyone gets the best out of their summer vacation.   Remember that you can call 2-1-1 24/7 for community information and resources. Connect with a compassionate call specialist, like Arnoldo who has been on staff for more than six years.   “2-1-1 is the most effective way of getting resources out into the community.” Arnoldo, 2-1-1 Call Specialist said. “It is a gathering of many people, many facets, that create one big jewel.”   STAY FED From breakfast to lunch to after-school snack, many kids in Austin rely on school meal programs. Often times the meals they are fed at school, are the only thing they will eat all day. According to Feeding America and the Community Advancement Network Dashboard for Travis County, 25 percent of children in Travis County are food insecure. That means more than 63,000 kids in Austin often go hungry when school is out.     Thankfully, through the Summer Food Service Program, Austin ISD will continue to serve FREE breakfast and lunch to local children and teens ages 18 and younger. Your child can get FREE meals even if they don’t attend AISD, regardless of economic status. No registration or identification is required.    To access FREE summer […]

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MENTAL HEALTH & MIGRANT CHILDREN

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS Our School Readiness Action Plan (SRAP) provides a strategic and data-driven roadmap to making sure our community, parents, caregivers and educators are ready and prepared to support the mental and physical health and development of our children. Our SRAP goals include ensuring that all children receive early and regular developmental screenings, have access to basic needs and mental health services as well as increasing the number of family-serving agencies that are trauma-informed. Ninety percent of the brain develops by age five and a child’s mental health is the most important aspect of their social and cognitive development. Research shows that the earliest years of life can set the stage for lifelong mental health outcomes. “Early childhood trauma has been associated with reduced size of the brain cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for many complex functions including memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language and consciousness. These events may affect IQ and the ability to regulate emotions, and the child may become more fearful.” National Alliance on Mental Illness research shows that early intervention and treatment can minimize and prevent the loss of critical developmental delays. The more the community is prepared to identify, evaluate and, if necessary, treat the mental health of our children, the less we have to spend on healthcare, involve the juvenile and criminal justice system and fight to keep children from dropping out of school.   WHAT IT MEANS FOR MIGRANT CHILDREN TOXIC STRESS Doctors Concerned About ‘Irreparable Harm’ To Separated […]

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Investing Early Matters

Why focusing on the current and future workforce is imperative for the economic health of Austin and the long-term success of our children.   WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW   Our current workforce depends on childcare. It is as simple as that.   Do you have kids? If so, think about what kind of childcare are they receiving and what it costs you. Are either you or your partner able to stay home to take care of your children? If not, take some time to reflect on your experience with the childcare system.   For two working parents to support two children in childcare, a typical family needs to earn $61,356 per year. A family earning the median household income would spend 18 percent of it on childcare and for a single parent earning minimum wage, care costs about two-thirds (64 percent) of their earnings. When childcare costs are on par with tuition at a state university, many working families can’t afford to stay home.   Right now, U.S. businesses lose three billion dollars annually from employee absenteeism due to breakdowns in the childcare system. And these breakdowns disproportionately affect low-income families.   WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?   The current workforce is inhibited by the lack of accessible and affordable childcare and businesses are suffering due to the lack of a prepared workforce.   WHAT WILL CONTINUE TO HAPPEN IF THINGS DON’T CHANGE   While the current workforce is suffering due to a fragmented childcare system, our focus should be on preparing […]

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Comcast Cares Day 2018: Comcast Celebrates One Year in Austin At Mainspring Schools

Sixty-eight Comcast team members showed up at Mainspring Schools’ bright and early last Saturday. Mainspring Schools is a long- term funded partner of United Way for Greater Austin and is among eight percent of centers in the U.S. accredited by the NAEYC, the nation’s most rigorous early childhood accrediting body.   “Comcast Cares Day is one of the ways we demonstrate our commitment to improving the quality of life in the communities where our customers and employees live and work,” Executive Director of XFINITY Home Wholesale, Tom Chmielewski said. “I have volunteered as the chair of an Austin nonprofit who has benefitted from the United Way’s support. I am proud that Comcast is a long time United Way supporter and want to support this great organization that does so much for our Austin community and neighbors.”   Representing different backgrounds, ethnicities and socio-economic levels, families come from all over Austin to attend Mainspring. Seventy-five percent of Mainspring students receive tuition subsidies. They believe diversity is crucial to developing self-aware, well-rounded children.   Comcast team members volunteered as a part of Comcast Cares day, a nation wide annual tradition of Comcast NBCUniversal. 2018 marked the 16th annual Comcast Cares Day and Mainspring was the first event located in Austin. On April 21, 2018, 100,000 volunteers worked to improve 1,000 project sites at community centers, schools, gardens, parks, beaches and more throughout the U.S. and in 20 other countries   “A day of service is such a small effort that can generate […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Awards 2018-2021 Community Investment Grants

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) selected 26 Austin nonprofit agencies to be awarded a total of $1.466 million in grants to fund early childhood education and 2-Generation (2-Gen) programming as part of their 2018-2021 Community Investment Grants (CIG).   United Way creates a community of support by partnering with critical community stakeholders. UWATX convenes this community of stakeholders to identify proven strategies and invest in high-quality, data-driven programs. CIG’s seek to amplify the collective impact of organizations already providing critical services to Austin’s youngest, most vulnerable children and their families.   2018-2021 CIG funded partners include: American Youthworks Any Baby Can of Austin Austin Child Guidance Center Austin Voices for Education and Youth AVANCE-AUSTIN BookSpring Child Inc. Communities In Schools of Central Texas E3 Alliance Foundation Communities Goodwill Industries of Central Texas Jeremiah Program KLRU LifeWorks Literacy Coalition of central Texas Mainspring Schools Mount Sinai Christian Academy  Open Door Preschools Saint Lousie House St. George’s Episcopal School Texas Association for the Education of Young Children The SAFE Alliance Todos Juntos Learning Center Trinity Child Development Center Workforce Solutions Capital Area YMCA of Austin     The path to poverty starts at an early age. Children living in low-income households do not have access to the same opportunities as their more advantaged peers and when parents struggle to access social and economic opportunities, breaking the cycle of generational seems unimaginable.   “It means so much to the Mainspring kids, families and staff that you lead this effort in Central Texas […]

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Play To Learn: Filling Gaps in the Digital Divide

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) is committed to developing innovative programs that enable low income families to have access to quality educational tools for their Pre-K3 children. Since 2011, UWATX’s Success By 6 program has been partnering with several community organizations (such as Austin Travis County Integral Care’s First Steps program, Austin Public Library Camp Fire Central Texas, KLRU and the YMCA of Austin) to offer Play To Learn (PTL) in some of the higher-need areas of greater Austin. This year alone, PTL served approximately 240 families through 15 partner locations and plans to partner with additional host sites in 2017. Play To Learn Technology By introducing tablet technology to the children and parents, PTL has been helping to decrease the “digital divide” that exists between lower-income families and their higher-income peers. Throughout the 10-week curriculum, parents learn skills to help their young children prepare for success in school. Additionally, PTL programming extends past the 10-week curriculum. Parents who attend at least eight sessions receive a tablet loaded with children’s books, songs, apps, PBS videos and bookmarked websites with helpful parenting resources to further aid and foster their children’s social and cognitive development. Program Impact Since the program’s inception, hundreds of parents in Austin have learned how to better connect and engage with their children. Likewise, PTL children are gaining the confidence and social skills to better participate in learning and with each other. Post-testing of families who completed PTL in 2016 showed great success: 99% of parents reported […]

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United Way for Greater Austin Awards $120,000 to Fund 2-Generation Programming in Austin, TX.

On November 17, 2016, five Austin non-profit agencies were awarded grants to fund initiatives created to propel 2-Generation Programming (2-Gen) in Austin, TX. American YouthWorks, Jeremiah Program and Saint Louise House were each awarded $30,000 grants and Goodwill Central Texas and SSP Learning Center were each awarded $15,000 grants. Leah Meunier, Chief Programs Officer at United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) adds, “These five funded programs help parents pursue education and pathways to superior employment opportunities while also ensuring that their young children have access to high-quality early education. We know early education fosters key developmental needs for school readiness—in turn, embedding anchors of opportunity for upward economic mobility across generations. UWATX is privileged to support these organizations during a period when Austin’s families and communities may depend on their work more than ever.” Over the last two years, UWATX and Austin’s 2-Gen Advisory Committee, have worked to demonstrate the value of the two-generation approach in service provision, bringing together local service providers and top researchers from around the country in 2-Gen community forums. The result of these discussions is a “Two-Generation Vision for Austin” which states, “Intergenerational poverty is a major problem in the United States. Economic mobility across generations (or the ability for children to do better financially than their parents) has diminished over time, and Austin is no exception, with lower mobility rates than many major cities. Chronic poverty produces toxic stress that affects adults’ abilities to perform well in the workplace and to provide a high quality […]

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