Since opening its doors in 1941, Mainspring Schools has been a best-in-class nonprofit preschool that works to eliminate the early childhood school readiness gap. Their mission is
“to deliver the highest quality early education and care to Austin’s most economically disadvantaged children – along with services so each child and parent have tools for success in school and life.”
With a mission like that and its dedication to providing high-quality, innovative, and researched based services to all children, Mainspring serves as a model for early childhood centers in Austin and beyond. As the backbone organization for early childhood in Austin/Travis County, United Way supports more than 20 childcare centers serving children from low-income families. Mainspring envisions a future in Austin in which all students have an equal opportunity to start school with the skills, support and wellness to compete and succeed in school and life.
“We firmly believe that you have to start early to build a strong foundation for at-risk kids. If you get the first years right, the path to success is clearer for our children,” says Jason Gindele, Executive Director for Mainspring. Gindele’s says of his team that they “often say, facetiously, that [their] mission is to get rid of all other charities. That’s obviously not true, but [they] do believe that if you get the first years of a child’s life right, it can prevent so many issues down the road that require the attention of our society.”
In Travis County, 42 percent of children under six live in low-income households. An overwhelming majority of these almost 40,000 children disproportionately come from families of color. These children live in segregated neighborhoods where family incomes are more than 35 percent below the city average. Inequitable access impacts school readiness – a holistic measure including physical, social and emotional health – and only 35 percent of these children enter kindergarten ready. The effects of early inequities are long-lasting, with disparities that persist for children of color and from families experiencing low-income as they become adults.
Mainspring aims to eliminate the early childhood school readiness gap through their strategic vision and programs. By aligning their work with the Austin/Travis County School Readiness Action Plan they ensure they are part of a greater, coordinated effort across the community focused on collective impact for children affected by disparities in access to high-quality services in our community. Mainspring understands that focusing solely on the child and academics will not lead to successful outcomes. Instead, by taking a holistic approach to address the whole child (including social-emotional learning and physical and mental health), the whole family and their staff. This starts by building community – a collective sense that we are all in this together.
The Mainspring model focuses on three areas:
- Innovative learning
- Physical and emotional health
- Family-centered engagement.
Mainspring achieves results by providing excellent, affordable education, care and nutrition for children to help them reach their potential while offering hands-on guidance and counseling for parents and guardians to ensure that both generations move forward together. This focus on quality with a holistic approach for both the child and the parent leads to impressive results. 95 percent of Mainspring graduates start kindergarten at or above the Texas readiness standards, and 90 percent of their parents attend more than 12 hours of parent education and support.
This past year Mainspring served more than 100 children, 75 percent of whom came from low-income families or foster homes. Mainspring also participates in the Center
Project Early Language Tutoring program and saw excellent results this past year. Children at Mainspring averaged more than 12 months of gains in language skills during an intervention that was just less than nine months. While focusing on their strategic efforts with students and caregivers, Mainspring is also focused on improving the lives of their staff.
“[Mainspring is] always looking to do more for [their] teachers, who are tireless in their efforts to help our children and families,” Jason Gindele, Executive Director of Mainspring Schools said. “[Our Team is looking to] improve pay as much as [the] budget allows, [and identify] extra perks for staff appreciation, showing respect for their work, building a team environment, giving them time off and empowering them to do their best.”
The efforts put forward by the whole team at Mainspring is what makes them so successful, and so focused; we commend Gindele on his efforts to help improve their lives, as they spend all day helping improve others.
So, how can you help Mainspring do what they do?
In order to allow for greater access to enrollment, Mainspring is hosting a benefit on November 4th at Falconhead Golf Club. Please join them as an attendee or a sponsor for their Scholarship Golf Scramble, and their Fall Floral Workshop and Social where all proceeds will benefit their scholarship fund, aimed at helping kids in crisis remain in school.
How to get involved:
Keep an eye out for Volunteer opportunities through United Way for Greater Austin, or feel free to contact Mainspring about doing a site visit! Jason Gindele encourages the community to come see first-hand the work that is being done to help at-risk kids and their families.
If you want to know more about the impact Mainspring is having in our community, check out their website and some of the success stories they share there. United Way is proud to fund organizations like Mainspring, who help us achieve our strategic goals from the School Readiness Action Plan, and help make Austin a great place for all families.
Story By: Morgan Messick,
Mission Advancement Communications & Grants Manager