Category: Young Leaders Society

75+ students in Manor ISD are getting a quality summer program!

Today, we launched a two-year pilot initiative: a summer program at Decker Middle School designed to provide more than 75 low-income fifth, sixth and seventh grade students in Manor ISD with summer learning opportunities. The 7 week-long initiative includes: UWATX’s Hands On Central Texas —Austin’s largest volunteer network — will conduct weekly volunteer activities where staff lead on-campus volunteer projects aimed to introduce students to philanthropy at an early age and help them improve their own school. This builds on our success leading Volunteer Project Leader classes at Decker MS.  National Summer Learning Day on Friday, June 20, in which students will team up with UWATX’s Young Leader Society members to guide advocacy letter writing about the importance of summer and afterschool programs as part of a larger, nation-wide effort. Texas Association of Minorities in Engineering event on Tuesday, July 22 in which TAME’s “Trailblazer Bus”—the only interactive science and engineering museum-on-wheels in Texas—will be stationed at Decker Middle School to provide STEM-based activities for the students. Creative Action will offer film production classes where students will be able to produce a film based on a social issue they identify in their community. Additionally, Creative Action will offer an art visual program in which students will develop their skills as individual artists. Camp Fire will offer a leadership program aimed to build leadership skills and introduce participants to STEM-based professionals. We’ve been serving Decker Middle School for three years as part of Target Graduation, which focuses services on the critical middle school period […]

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Nine young professionals making Austin greater

As part of our 90-day celebration of UWATX’s 90th anniversary, we’re working on 10 lists of 9 highlighting influential and impactful people in the Austin community. In the sixth part of our series, we bring you nine young professionals changing Austin.  Austin’s a city of entrepreneurs, innovators and philanthropists – and we’re a great city for young professionals, so it was difficult to determine who to highlight with so many talented Austinites. We chose to focus on individuals who made an impact on our community with a commitment to what makes Austin unique AND philanthropic efforts.    1. Dan Graham Dan Graham is founder and CEO of BuildASign.com. Dan has been named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2013 Central Texas, a 2012 best CEO by the Austin Business Journal, and Austin Under 40’s 2012 Austinite of the Year. He is on the Board of Directors for United Way for Greater Austin, Caritas of Austin and the Austin Chamber of Commerce. He is a mentor through Capital Factory and Incubation Station.   2. Julie Fisher Julie Fisher is the Public Affairs and Community Relations Specialist at Samsung Austin Semiconductor. Julie is heavily involved with UWATX. She mentors students weekly, is an Employee Campaign Leader for Samsung’s Employee Campaign, and on the Young Leaders Society Founding Committee. Photo: UWATX photo of Julie volunteering at Decker Middle School.   3. Luke Martinez Luke Martinez is Senior Vice President; Process Design Consultant at Bank of America. Very involved with UWATX, Luke is […]

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Middle school students gave 865 hours to low-income neighborhoods

Today, we proudly celebrated the end of another successful school year by watching more than 40 local middle school students graduate from our Volunteer Project Leader (VPL) program. In the past year, these students completed 18 projects and gave 865 hours of service back to their own communities.  The VPL program was adapted from a national model that trains adults on how to lead and manage volunteer projects on their own time, helping transform casual volunteers into active community leaders. Since it launched, we’ve expanded the program to all three campuses served by our Target Graduation program – Mendez, Webb and Decker Middle School – bringing together UWATX’s volunteer management expertise with our efforts to help students stay on the path to graduation.  The program helps students become active in their own communities from a young age. The three schools that currently have the program all serve low-income areas, so students are paying back into a system of supports that they have benefitted from or improving neighborhoods where there are significant needs and barriers.  As part of the VPL program, students conduct community assessments to determine projects that could better their local community. Based on the responses they receive from the assessments, students devote their entire school year to these projects.  Last year at Decker Middle School, one of the key needs they identified was for a safer route to school, since the speed limit on Decker Lane was 50 mph. Students organized their classmates and the community – and received funding from the Texas Department of Transportation to build a […]

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Recognizing the best in philanthropy: Employee Campaign Awards 2013

Thanks to almost 400 companies and their employees in the Austin community, UWATX’s vision for Austin is one step closer to becoming a reality.  Last night, we celebrated and recognized those companies who excelled in building philanthropy in our community. Overall awards Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy Awards Our Excellence in Corporate Philanthropy award is given to United Way for Greater Austin’s Top 3 campaigns, companies who make important investments with a commitment to making Austin Greater and where employees also give of their time, talent and treasure. Each of these companies implement United Way’s best practices, and do so in a way that represents “excellence” in all categories.  They represent the heart of philanthropy in Greater Austin and we are so honored to work with them everyday to lift up the working poor and ensure that every one of our community members has what they need to thrive. This year’s winners are H-E-B, 3M and Enterprise. Pictured, from left: Mark Hauerland and David Spencer, H-E-B, Russell Bridges, 3M, Eric Munoz and Nikki Mulvaney, Enterprise, and Bobby Jenkins, ABC Home & Commercial   Best Practices Award: Target The “Best Practices Award” recognizes the company that implements UWATX’s 3 Best Practices of engaging company leaders in Employee Campaign, providing opportunities for employees to learn about the impact of their gifts and experiencing community change through volunteer projects hosted by UWATX.  This year, our representatives were able to speak at every Target store and cover every employee shift to ensure that Target employees […]

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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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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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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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A middle school perspective on leadership

On the surface, these students look like any other boys in the St. John’s neighborhood – Jose is a Webb Middle School student who likes video games and has lived in Austin all his life, Kevin is a freshman at Reagan High School who was born in Mexico and loves to play soccer. But they do something that makes them stand out from the pack: Kevin and Jose are actively changing their community at the ripe old ages of 11 and 15, respectively. We’ve been working with students like them for three years as part of our Target Graduation program. When we first partnered with campuses to saturate schools with the services that students need, we also adapted our Volunteer Project Leader program into a full-year course for middle school students, and over the past year, our Young Leader Society has been actively engaged with volunteer leaders at our three target middle schools. Kevin, Jose and 48 of their peers are making a difference by assessing what the needs are in their own school, putting together a plan to resolve those needs and leading their peers and YLS members to fix problems. This is Jose’s first year in the program, but Kevin’s been involved since it first started.  “I enjoy getting to help people in the community where I live. I feel like I’m making a change at home,” said Kevin to YLS member Kara Birge when she sat down with the boys last week. “I got to help people today […]

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YLS & student leaders expand the Decker Middle School Garden!

Last month, a small group of volunteers gathered at Decker Middle School to work on the community garden.  We were current YLS members, new volunteering recruits and Volunteer Project Leader students.  One of the VPL leaders even invited a friend from another school to participate— as Julie commented, it truly is neat to see recruiting happening at that age! Standing on a large rock in the middle of the Decker Community Learning Garden, Annie and the student Leaders for the project welcomed the volunteers and described our task—to continue the work begun last year by the VPL class on the Decker Middle School Garden.  Volunteers quickly got to work on the various projects including:  painting the sign for the Decker Community Learning Garden, building two benches, digging holes for the sign and the benches, and making bags out of old banners. The most popular activity seemed to be the bag-making project.  Julie shared this project from Keep Austin Beautiful. This project involved donated banners, staples, and duck tape.  In addition to making bags for carrying the gardening tools, nearly all of the VPL students made at least one bag to bring home or to give to a friend.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these bags as the new “in” fashion in the Manor community. To conclude the event at Decker Middle School, Annie made the surprise announcement that we were going to have a cartwheel contest!  Congratulations Julie for winning the cartwheel contest. After saying our goodbyes to […]

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Mentoring “can easily change lives with as a little as one hour per week”

In our work, we get to meet and talk with incredible donors and volunteers who are committed to our community – and one of the most remarkable among them is Julie Fisher. Not only is she on the YLS founding committee AND an Employee Campaign Leader for Samsung’s Employee Campaign, but for two-and-a-half years, she’s been giving her time every week to be a mentor.  Since January is Mentoring Month, we thought we’d ask Julie a few questions about her experience:  UWATX Question: What policies does Samsung have to allow their employees to do this kind of work? Julie’s Answer: One of Samsung’s core values is co-prosperity. We are dedicated to being socially and environmentally responsible corporate citizens in every community we operate in. Specifically at our local level, employees are allowed to volunteer on a workload and manager permitting basis. We offer volunteer opportunities at several different times to accommodate the schedules and shifts that our employees work. We encourage our employees to find their passion and connect with our nonprofit partners to ignite inspiring volunteer opportunities. How much time do you spend mentoring each week? What kinds of activities are involved? We meet for at least 1 hour each week . I visit Da’shyra during her lunch period and we usually do arts and crafts and talk about different things going on in her life. At the beginning of our mentoring relationship, we created a scrapbook that I bring every time to sketch, write and put pictures in. It is […]

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