Newsroom

Meet Naomi and Tirzah

In the Greater Austin area, child poverty rates are nearly 25 percent higher than the national average and only 13 percent of children raised in Austin’s low-income neighborhoods enter kindergarten ready to learn. These concerning statistics are the target of UWATX’s Success By 6 program through initiatives like Play To Learn, a project that targets low-income families from under-resourced neighborhoods in Greater Austin and surrounding areas. Play To Learn provides  high-quality early education for children alongside their parents. The goal is to help parents learn how to put their children on the path to success in school and life. We recently say down with Play To Learn mom, Naomi, and her daughter (with the most precious blonde curls you’ll ever see), Tirzah, to hear how the program is supporting them.   Why did you and your daughter start participating in United Way’s Play To Learn program? I was in search of fun things to do with my daughter. She’s at the age where she likes to explore and interact and, most importantly, be active, so I thought this was a great opportunity for us to learn and grow together. Do you feel the program is having an impact on you and your daughter? It has had an impact in both our lives. I believe it’s very important to set routines and schedules with toddlers and I had no idea on where and how to start; Play To Learn has helped me create a safe environment for her, where there is discipline and […]

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After-school programs make a difference for students like Lillie

Middle school is a tipping point for many students – and while what happens during the school day is critical, students spend more than 76 percent of their AWAKE time outside of school. That’s why we invest in quality out-of-school-time programs through Target Graduation, but the importance of these programs can sometimes be pretty abstract. Until you meet people like Lillie – a seventh-grade straight-A student at Mendez Middle School. She’s lived in Dove Springs for ten years and last year, she became involved with Junior Staff, a program from the Boys and Girls Club that students apply to participate in. Through Junior Staff, Lillie learns job skills by taking a leadership role in the program and learns how to run effective after-school programs for other students. “I believe Lillie believes in us as much as we believe in her and I think she will continue to flourish and grow as a vital part of our program.”   Steven Zuniga, Extension Director of the Boys and Girls Club at Mendez Middle School Here’s what Lillie has to say about the program: Why did you start participating in the program? I started in sixth grade because because the people were really nice and my dad thought it would be good for me.  The first time I went I had a lot of fun so I kept coming every week.   What is your favorite part of the program? My favorite day is the day they celebrated my birthday.  They wrote it […]

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Financial Opportunity rewards those who open bank accounts

The Financial Opportunity team at UWATX recently had the pleasure of rewarding our Bank on Central Texas grand prize raffle winner, Mark Mead, for taking a critical step towards financial security – opening a bank account. In April, Financial Opportunity launched a strategic outreach campaign to help Central Texas families save hundreds of dollars each year by opening free or low-cost bank accounts. Mark, who was among many individuals to take part in the campaign, opened an account with Greater Texas Federal Credit Union, conveniently located on his way home. Without a bank account, families pay close to $1,000 a year in fees to cash checks. For many unbanked individuals, how close a financial institution is to their home can make a significant difference because getting to a far away location is often not an option. Transportation is just one of the barriers to accessing quality financial services, along with a lack of education about what services are available and how to access them. Our outreach efforts were another step towards breaking this education barrier. Without access to mainstream financial services, individuals may spend tens of thousands of dollars over a lifetime on the high fees associated with check cashing, money orders and other alternative financial services. According to the Brookings Institute, the average unbanked worker spends an estimated $40,000 throughout his or her life just to cash paychecks. More than that, a bank account is often the first step towards greater security – the beginning of a relationship with a bank […]

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Highlighting local philanthropy: Shantel Tharps

At UWATX we know one single story can inspire thousands to give back, united our community and offer hope. This year, we’re telling stories of individuals who, at one point or another, received services/support from UWATX and now give back in dollars or time. Their stories prove that ANYONE can be a philanthropist. Most recently, I sat down with Shantel Tharps, a middle school teacher, whose story inspired me beyond belief.   When did you receive support from United Way and what did it help with? When I went off to college in the fall of 1990, I had twin daughters with me, no car and finances were tight. During my second semester my girls and I moved into family housing on my campus and United Way helped my find quality child care and even helped me pay for it. It made it possible for me to bring my daughters with me to college rather than leaving them with their grandparents.    Did that experience have a lasting impact on you and your family? If so, how? Yes it did! I was able to make it through those seasons of life with the help of United Way! The child care United Way helped us pay for was more of a learning center with high school mentors for the kids. I remember the ones that helped my girls really made them feel special and took an active part in all they did. We still have the little farewell apple she made them when they ‘graduated’ […]

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Making Austin greater – 2012 Employee Campaign

Leadership Makes Austin Greater Kevin, Webb Middle School student “I’m in the United Way Volunteer Project Leader program because I want to be a better person. When I grow up I want to be a professional soccer player but I worry I won’t ever be able to. Lots of times, money is tough even though my mom works really hard. She motivates me because she works so hard – she’s my mom and my dad at the same time. People from UWATX and my school who care about me say I should stay in school because even though I don’t need math to play soccer, I’m still going to need it at some point. Thanks to the UWATX program, I’ve already done some volunteer projects and it made me feel really good because I could talk to the people that couldn’t speak English so it made me proud to be bilingual. ”   Education Makes Austin Greater Beth, mother of 4-year-old Katelyn “My daughter is becoming more social and independent thanks to United Way’s Play To Learn project. A few months ago, my mother passed away and I was having a difficult time finding a caretaker for my 4-year-old daughter Katelyn until I discovered United Way’s Play To Learn project. Since I do not have Internet access, the library is a home away from home for us, so it was incredibly convenient to find this service there. And this was so much more than childcare, it also allowed my daughter […]

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