Category: Middle School Matters

Volunteer Spotlight: Jackie Oliver, Broadway Bank

With the start of school less than a month out, UWATX’s volunteer arm, Hands On Central Texas, is already planning the Back to School Volunteer Day at Webb Early College Prep Academy. Volunteers will come together on August 18th to help teachers prepare their classrooms for the year, beautify the campus and distribute donated school supplies to different programs and areas of the school. One of our dedicated partners, Broadway Bank, has been volunteering with our back to school efforts for the past two years. Broadway Bank’s home city of San Antonio hosts a large school supply collection, which inspired Austin Assistant Market Manager, Jackie Oliver, to bring those efforts to Austin when she reached out to UWATX in 2014. That year and the following year, 2015, Broadway Bank successfully collected supplies for more than 50 students in need at a partner middle school by hosting collection events at their downtown Austin branch. Jackie made sure to keep the Broadway Bank group involved and volunteering throughout the year. Employees participated in the H-E-B Feast of Sharing in November, Spring Day of Caring and Fall Day of Caring. Additionally, Broadway Bank donated holiday meal kits to families at the Mendez Boys and Girls Club Thanksgiving Dinner. The meal kits included food to prepare a delicious family meal and an H-E-B gift card to purchase a turkey. We had the opportunity to chat with Jackie and her marketing team about what drives Broadway Bank’s philanthropic involvement:   1. How long have you been involved with […]

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Summer Camp Kicks Off

This summer, United Way For Greater Austin is funding a six-week blended enrichment program for middle school students in Manor. In partnership with Bank of America, a special cohort of incoming 9th graders will concentrate on career readiness and financial literacy as they prepare for high school. Students will not only learn about careers in the classroom, but will take weekly field trips to various businesses and organizations to learn about different career paths from the employees working in each field. Last week, the summer program kicked off with students visiting the state capitol to learn more about the political sector. The students took a tour of the capitol to learn more about the history of the building and Texas government. They learned some interesting facts when visiting the State Senate room, like how the Senate does not have a limit for debate which can cause a filibuster. (The longest filibuster in Texas happened in 1977 when a representative talked for 43 hours!) After the tour, students met with Miguel Liscano and Curtis Smith to learn about their career paths and experiences working in the capitol. Curtis Smith works as the Chief of Staff for Representative Terry Canales from District 40, and Miguel Liscano who works as the Committee Director for the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence for Representative Abel Herrero of District 34. Miguel and Curtis discussed how they started their careers through internships, working with a business or organization for a semester or summer to get both educational and real life experience in different fields. The […]

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YLS Members Volunteer at Webb Middle School Prom

On the eve before the last day of school, a group of dedicated UWATX Young Leaders Society members volunteered at Webb Middle School ‘prom,’ allowing teachers to take a small break from a very hectic week. The Webb prom is held to honor 8th grade students graduating from middle school. YLS members were excited to help celebrate the student’s hard work and academic achievements at this special event. Members helped set up red carpets, prepared tables and hung decorations from the walls of the gymnasium. Once the gym was prepped, YLS members stuck around and chaperoned the dance as the students danced the night away. YLS members had the opportunity to interact with Webb faculty and staff and some of the students they had volunteered with throughout the year. We asked two YLS members about their experiences volunteering at the Webb prom.   How long have you been involved with the Young Leaders Society? John Fahy: I have been involved with YLS for about three years now. I was one of the first community ambassadors for Kerbey Lane Cafe; Kerbey introduced me to YLS and gave me opportunities to pursue my passion for philanthropy. Ward Hoffman: I have been involved with YLS somewhere between two to three years. What was your favorite part of volunteering at the dance? John Fahy: My favorite part of volunteering at the dance was knowing how much we were helping the teachers and other staff members. It was the last week of school and they had so […]

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The Effects of Summer Learning Loss on Low-Income Students

Students and parents alike usually view summer as a time for well-deserved relaxation and a break from learning. However, this break from learning can have consequences that are detrimental to students during the following school year and beyond. More than half of the achievement gap between low- and med/high-income students is due to unequal access to high-quality summer learning opportunities. Low-income students often can’t afford the summer camps, intensive programming or worldly vacations that their more affluent peers attend, and often spend their summers watching TV or babysitting their siblings. Most students lose about two months of mathematical computation skills over the summer. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, while their mid/higher-income peers actually make slight gains. This achievement gap has more and more of an effect on students as they complete more schooling. These summer knowledge losses compound so greatly that it has even been identified as part of the reason that low-income kids are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (SummerLearning.org). Not only do students lose knowledge, many also gain unhealthy amounts of weight during the summer due to a lack of balanced meals at home and lack of exercise they normally get from recess, organized sports or gym class. Students gain weight on average two to three times faster than they do during the school year (Edutopia.org). As you can see, it’s important in many aspects of a child’s life to have access during the summer to programs […]

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VPL Graduates Celebrate at Kerbey Lane Cafe

The UWATX Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) middle school program aims to transform youth into active community leaders by teaching them leadership skills they need to make lasting change in their communities. This week, 35 middle school VPL students from the three campuses we work on attended a celebration of their accomplishments at Kerbey Lane Cafe. They ordered pancakes and breakfast tacos from a special menu featuring a letter of encouragement and congratulations from Kerbey Lane’s CEO and UWATX Board Member, Mason Ayer. These students from Mendez, Webb and Decker Middle Schools completed 20 volunteer projects this year, ranging from making seed balls and beautifying their neighborhoods, to packing hygiene kits for the homeless and leading a craft station for refugee children. After breakfast, students received special certificates, t-shirts and journals to document their ideas on how to continue making Austin greater. As with any VPL meeting, the event concluded with a peer shoutout exercise we call “brag on your neighbor.” Students and volunteers recognized the contributions of each other that made this year both successful and fun. Below are some messages left by the students on a reflection board from the event: “Thank you for helping me help others”   “Thank you for showing me skills I didn’t know I had”   “Because of VPL, I know that I want to grow up to be a philanthropist”   Want to make a difference in the community? Visit HandsOnCentralTexas.org, the largest volunteer network in Central Texas, and find opportunities that interest you!

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Volunteer Spotlight: Caroline Trang and Frances Jordan

Our middle school VPL program is full of outstanding volunteers! You may have read earlier this week about Cristian Dominguez from Webb Middle School — today we are highlighting another VPL volunteer, Caroline Trang, in honor of National Volunteer Week. Caroline is a 7th grader at Decker Middle School, one of the three middle schools served by our Middle School Matters program. This year was Caroline’s first year in the VPL program, and she had the best attendance of any student in the program and was a leader of Decker’s Literacy Night activity booth. Other projects Caroline and her team have taken on include making book posters, sorting books for donation, volunteering in the school library and creating bookmarks with literacy tips for other students. Young Leaders Society (YLS) Executive Member, Frances Jordan, serves as the YLS Campus Captain of Decker Middle School and has worked closely with Caroline this past year. Frances not only volunteers through YLS, but also serves as a member of UWATX’s volunteer Resource Development Committee and helps our fundraising team find new business and make important decisions. Frances and Caroline sat down together and chatted about their involvement and volunteer experiences with UWATX:   Frances: Why do you volunteer through the VPL program? Caroline: My friend Helen made me come at first, but it turned out to be so fun! I like to help others. Frances:What are your favorite types of volunteer activities? Caroline: Helping with cleaning up the community, presenting to groups, and giving gifts to those in need. Frances: Describe […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Christian Dominguez

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we are honoring UWATX’s supportive volunteers, employee campaign leaders, giving society members and more–we couldn’t do what we do without them! Cristian Dominguez is a seventh grader at Webb Middle School and has participated in the middle school Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) program for two years. Brad Wilkinson, UWATX Volunteer Engagement Specialist, and Cristian have known each other for one semester ever since Brad began attending the weekly VPL meetings at Webb. The VPL program at Webb allows Cristian and other VPL participants the opportunity to learn about community issues, build leadership skills and lead projects that help others. Cristian has consistently pushed forward new ideas on how to help others, including planning a story time booth to read to children at last year’s Community Tree Lighting event and organizing a day with classmates to pack 30 comprehensive toiletry kits for individuals transitioning from homelessness in the community. Brad and Cristian interviewed each other to discuss what motivates them to give back as well as what they have taken away from the VPL program:   Brad: Why do you volunteer through the VPL program? Cristian: “Because I like to help, a lot.” Brad: What are your favorite types of volunteer activities? Cristian: “I am excited to go to the Ronald McDonald House to make breakfast for others.” Brad: Can you describe any volunteer experience that has been helpful to you in other parts of your life (such as school)? Cristian: “Helping is something you can do […]

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Students Spend Spring Break Volunteering at Ronald McDonald House

While some of their classmates laid on a beach or drove cross-country, some students from Webb Middle School chose to spend part of their Spring Break giving back to others. The VPL program is a UWATX initiative and a collaboration between the organization’s efforts to support three area middle schools—Webb, Mendez and Decker Middle Schools. Students participating in the afterschool VPL program learn how to take a leading role in changing their community each week. VPL students from Webb Middle School were charged with developing, planning, coordinating and executing a volunteer project on their own terms. The Webb students chose to support the Ronald McDonald House because they wanted to support families staying at the “home-away-from-home” while their children are being treated at Austin-area hospitals. Past graduates from the VPL program who are now in high school or beyond, members of UWATX’s Young Leaders Society, F.O.R.C.E. dance team members and Kerbey Lane Cafe volunteers assisted the Webb students in making breakfast for the 20 families who are staying at the Ronald McDonald House. The menu included green pancakes made with Kerbey Lane Cafe’s famous pancake batter, as well other traditional breakfast foods, such as hash browns, oatmeal and fruit skewers. The students also made St. Patrick’s Day cards for the families and passed them around after the breakfast. The students and volunteers took a tour of the Ronald McDonald House after the breakfast to learn more about the organization. Shoutout to these exceptional future leaders of Austin for spending their […]

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Webb Students Visit Alternative College

Webb Middle School VPL students took a field trip across the street from their campus to Peloton University inside the For the City Center. The students met with a group of staff and PelotonU students to learn more about the a college advancement organization that provides targeted support to non-traditional students pursuing online education.At PelotonU, students enroll in high-quality online degree programs and are provided with a space where they can study and receive additional tutoring and mentorship as needed. Students completed an ice-breaker activity, higher education myth-busting, interview speed-dating about community needs and education and a college Q&&A session. PelotonU staff and students learned about the Webb students through interview questions on their strengths, proudest accomplishments and what inspires them to serve others. This opened a forum for Webb students to vocalize their dreams of going to business school and their achievements such as learning sign language, as well as learn from PelotonU students about their own experiences. PelotonU staff led a round of trivia about college completion and affordability. Students earned popsicles based on their knowledge of the reality of higher education, including barriers to access and completion. A few things they learned through trivia include: – If 6 in 10 high school graduates enrolled in college, ½ of those students will graduate. -True or false: If you earn a college degree, you will make 1 million dollars over the span of a 40 year career vs if you only have a high school degree. (True) -An average […]

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Decker Students Lead Literacy Night Project

Decker Middle School students in our VPL program volunteered at Decker Literacy Night on February 11th. The students in the UWATX VPL (Volunteer Project Leader) program work together to learn to become the next community leaders through afterschool and out-of-school volunteer projects they coordinate and run. Decker Literacy Night was coordinated by the literacy specialist at the middle school, and UWATX’s VPL students designed a booth where they led activities for other students. Last semester, Decker’s VPL students self-selected into project teams after a discussion about social issues that resulted in identifying four need areas that the students wanted to learn more about and support. These areas include: homelessness and hunger, environmental justice, children and literacy, and food and nutrition. Each issue area then chose a name for their project team and have undertaken project planning and leadership activities to help them build their team’s experience. The Big Read team, which focuses on children and literacy, led the Literacy Night booth project. While all VPL students supported the Literacy Night booth, Big Read came up with the ideas, led the activities and served as the project spokespeople. Decker VPL students were in charge of coming up with a theme and creating their booth. They designed a creative and colorful “Critics’ Corner” to give book recommendations and generate excitement about reading among their peers. Popular titles included “The Fault In Our Stars,” “Wonder,” “Girl In a Box” and “The Hunger Games.” Two Young Leaders Society executive members, Frances Jordan and Ward Hoffman, volunteered at […]

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