Category: Young Leaders Society

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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Recognizing Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy: 2015 Campaign Awards

At United Way for Greater Austin, we run more than 200 employee campaigns in nearly 700 locations in the Austin area. Employee campaigns provide an opportunity for businesses to empower employees to be philanthropists by donating a portion of each paycheck back to the community. Last night, we celebrated and recognized companies who excelled in building philanthropy in our community at our 2015 Employee Campaign Awards. Award winners: Best Practices: Superior Health and Texas Gas This award recognizes the company that implements UWATX’s best campaign practices, which include Senior Officer involvement, access to employees and use of UWATX campaign materials among several others. This year we had two winners for this award. Superior Health kept their campaign at one week to give a sense of urgency; they also planned a week of fun, educational experiences for their employees encouraging them to give. Texas Gas established multiple opportunities for UWATX staff to come and speak to their employees about our work, as well as ran a closed campaign where employee donations were matched 1:1 by their foundation. Community Investment Award: H-E-B The Community Investment Award represents a company or companies who exemplify what it really means to wrap arms around a community to make a significant impact. Anyone who shops at H-E-B realizes it’s not your normal grocery store. This year, H-E-B decided to increase corporate giving to match the generosity of their employees and UWATX experienced a 150% increase in corporate giving. They make philanthropy a part of their culture and host […]

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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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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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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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300+ Volunteered on MLK Day of Service

MLK Day of Service is a national initiative to strengthen communities, bridge barriers between different groups of people, create solutions to our social problems and move us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.” Thousands of individuals around the U.S. honor Dr. King’s legacy on this day by participating in volunteer projects that encourage community collaboration and make our towns a better place to live. “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, more Americans live in poverty today than during Dr. King’s lifetime–which is why it is more important now than ever to work together to make Austin greater for all residents. More than 300 volunteers signed up to work on eight projects for this year’s MLK Day of Service on January 16th. This annual event is hosted by United Way for Greater Austin, Keep Austin Beautiful and State Representative Dawnna Dukes. We kicked off the event at UWATX with breakfast and encouraging speeches from Mayor Steve Adler, UWATX Board Member Rodney Northern and other influential community members. Volunteers then dispersed to work on a variety of projects, ranging from a clean-up of MLK Jr. Boulevard to creating works of art of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be auctioned off to raise money for UWATX’s Middle School Matters program. Some of the groups that signed up for the event were Apple employees, current and alumni AmeriCorps […]

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UWATX Hosts 2nd Annual Community Tree Lighting

We held our 2nd Annual Community Tree Lighting event for the St. John’s community on Giving Tuesday, December 1, 2015. Webb Middle School students and their families, as well as other community members, were invited to attend the free holiday party. The kids loved visiting with the bunnies, hedgehogs, ducklings and more that the Tiny Tails To You traveling petting zoo brought. Other activities included a cookies and cocoa station, card and ornament making, a balloon artist and face painters. One of our Webb Middle School volunteer project leader students had the idea to set up a reading corner and read holiday books to some of the younger children at the event. As the sun set, Principal “Santa” Sanchez spoke of the importance and positive impact that he has seen through United Way’s support of the Webb campus. 54% of students at Webb received at least one service coordinated through UWATX last year, including behavioral health, mentoring, tutoring and afterschool programs. Webb’s musical groups performed holiday classics and the audience counted down from five until the tree was lit up with blue and gold–Webb’s school colors. Young Leaders Society members passed out donated toys and books to the children who attended. Thank you to Capital Metro who once again sponsored the 15 foot tree that lit up the St. John’s neighborhood this year! Thank you also to ABC Home & Commercial for decorating the tree, DoubleTree Hotels who provided volunteers and cookies, H-E-B for donating the hot cocoa, Petsmart for […]

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Volunteers Scaring for a Good Cause!

In celebration of the spookiest time of the year, UWATX’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) members volunteered at Decker Middle School’s Fright Night last week. Fright Night, one of Decker’s most popular student events, allows students to use their creativity while coordinating with YLS volunteers to transform the school into a “haunted house”. Volunteers helped set up, scared students as they moved through the haunted house and took photos of the students for souvenirs. Fright Night helps sponsor the AVID program at Decker Middle School, which gives students the opportunities to attend field trips to college campuses and provides in class activities around career and college readiness. We had the opportunity to talk with Julie Fisher, YLS Chair, about her volunteering experience the Fright Night event. What were some of the activities you were involved in during Fright Night? I was involved with set up, setting the kids in waves down the stairwell and cleanup/breakdown. Describe your favorite part of the night Watching the kids give each other pep talks before going into the Haunted House. The event itself is always a blast, but I love the set up and break down with the students. It is a great opportunity to interact with them and give them a chance to give us the orders on how to set up the different rooms and halls. It was encouraging to see how excited they were after they received such positive feedback from their peers on how “awesome” the experience was. What do you enjoy […]

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I Wish I Could Tell My Middle School Self

This year’s Young Leader’s Society campaign kicks off on September 3rd. Each year, United Way for Greater Austin provides quality educational programming for middle school students right here in Central Texas, and the Young Leaders Society helps make this work possible through donating, advocacy and volunteer efforts. Middle school is a notoriously hard time, especially for the low-income students we serve. We asked YLS members to tell us what they wish they could travel back in time to tell the middle school versions of themselves. Celso Baez, III “If such a time capsule existed that would teleport my 26-year-old self in front of my chubby 13-year-old middle school self, I’d have quite a lot to say. Beyond the flat-top haircut humiliation, the one thing I’d emphasize is that community involvement is a way of life and to start acting like it, plus encouraging others around me to follow suit. The Young Leaders Society’s (YLS) efforts via United Way for Greater Austin’s Target Graduation Program aim to bridge the ever-growing opportunity gap between students in low-income households and students in medium to high-income households. While this is very important to tackle, I’d look at my “state-dubbed, at-risk youth” self in the eye, and challenge myself and my other prepubescent friends to endeavor in rewriting their own narratives by way of community engagement. Simply put, if you see a need, try your best to do something about it. In non-13-year-old language, I’d suggest to others that caring about your neighborhood and the […]

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VPL Students and YLS Build Skate Ramp at Mendez Middle School

Young Leaders Society members and VPL students from Mendez Middle School, one of three campuses we support through our Target Graduation program, joined forces last weekend on a very different kind of volunteer project.  Along with members of Mendez’s Skateboard Club, an after school group dedicated to kick-flipping and perfecting the art of an Ollie, the volunteers built a skate ramp at the school entirely from scratch. Students utilized skills they had recently learned in their math classes as they measured boards, calculated angles and used formulas to get the perfect angles on the ramp. Young Leaders Society members assisted with the heavy-duty aspects by drilling the boards into place and making sure the ramp was stable. Members of the Skateboard Club had an audience to show off on the new ramp after completion, and some YLS members even assisted with teaching new skateboard skills. The Dove Springs community in which Mendez Middle School sits is two years into a health and wellness revitalization project. “GO Austin! VAMOS Austin!” is a place-based health initiative, funded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, aimed at reducing obesity in zip code 78744. Initiative organizers and community leaders have advocated for better sidewalks, improved lighting at parks, safe routes to school and coordinated exercise programs, like Zumba and soccer for local kids and families.  We are happy to support not only this health initiative in Dove Springs, but to support high-quality afterschool programming in this neighborhood, such as the Skateboard Club at Mendez. View all of the photos from this project on our […]

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