Expanding Opportunity for Young Families helps parenting students advance their careers

Meet Katie Gonzalez, a parent of six young kids. As one of 34 parents in our Expanding Opportunities for Young Families pilot program, Katie recently earned a phlebotomy certificate from Austin Community College, advancing her career opportunities while also receiving access to vital wrap-around services for her family.

Expanding Opportunity for Young Families (EOYF) is a collaborative community program coordinated by United Way for Greater Austin that helps parents overcome barriers to completing their degree, such as challenges finding child care and financial pressures. The program, which takes a 2-Gen approach of serving parents and children simultaneously, works to increase young parents’ successful academic enrollment and completion so they can access middle-skill jobs. 

The goal of the program is to increase the financial stability of young parents age 18-29 while improving the well-being of their children. Together with local community partner organizations, young parents from our Link Up Austin group are co-leaders of this work to advance the well-being and economic mobility of their families and the community.

Katie says participating in the program allowed her to support herself financially while studying to achieve her dream role as a phlebotomist.

“It’s a good opportunity for a lot of families,” she said. “Especially those who are in need and are wanting to go back to school and get educated, so they can have a career for themselves, their kids and their families.”

How it works

United Way partners with Workforce Solutions (WFS) Capital Area, Central Texas Allied Health Institute (CTAHI), Skillpoint Alliance, Goodwill Central Texas, American Youthworks, and Austin Urban Technology Movement to provide training to young parents in health, skill trades, and IT tracks. Parents have access to free training with Workforce Solutions funding, free laptops, stipends, child care, and case management. United Way supports outreach and provides connections between local young parents and the partners.

Since the pilot launched earlier this year, the experience has been transformational not only for the 34 young parents in the program, but for the workforce partners themselves. Partners have already implemented system changes internally that will contribute to better serving young parents in the future by increasing enrollment, retention, and completion. 

For example, our partners are now collecting data about parenting status and age of children, which will help them better understand family needs and provide additional support to remove many of the barriers causing parenting students to drop out of their programs. Families are now being enrolled in the WFS waiting list to access child care subsidies from day one, and families now have a better understanding of and are better connected to resources to access pathways to advance their careers.

Providing these supports to parents leads to a completion rate of 95%, compared to an average of 75% for students not receiving the same level of support. Parenting student success is not just about access. It’s not just about representation, or even hope. It’s an intentional combination of support that gives students a sense of agency in improving their lives and the lives of their children. Families are better equipped to reach their full potential when offered opportunities for social support, educational pathways, and meaningful employment.

Many parenting students leave school for preventable reasons: lack of child care, inability to rebound from costly emergencies, and family financial responsibilities. This is why Expanding Opportunity for Young Families is helping parenting students achieve success – because all families deserve access to educational and career opportunities. 

Interested in learning more and enrolling in Expanding Opportunity for Young Families? Email Paola Silvestre.

You can support parenting students like Katie. Give today.

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