Parents are powerful: Uplifting parent voices as champions for change | 2-Gen Leadership Council

Parents are powerful. At United Way for Greater Austin, we value the lived experience and extensive expertise of parents & caregivers. What does that mean for our work? It means that we not only strive to make room at the table for parent voices, but we work to uplift those voices and ensure that they are heard. 

Welcome to our new blog series all about shining a spotlight on the ways amazing parents are using their voices to build a better Austin. In this first installment, you will hear from two-parent leaders, Alma Ruiz and Cristina Guajardo, about their experience serving on the 2-Gen Leadership Council. 

What is the 2-Gen Leadership Council?

The 2-Gen Leadership council is made up of 47 local leaders. These council members guide the creation of policy at the city and county level and are decision-makers in the areas of workforce, school districts, nonprofits, child care, and more. They provide big picture guidance and oversight for the 2-Gen Strategic Plan purpose, goals, and strategies.

As parent leaders, Alma and Cristina are actually sitting at the table with systems leaders to co-design strategies, programs, pilots as well as to guide our overall strategic planning process. The 2-Gen Leadership Council is the only structure of this type elevating parent leaders to this strategic level in Austin currently.

The goal is to elevate the voices of families and inform strategic plan implementation while giving families the skills they need to be effective advocates and leaders in the community. The council also helps to create a pipeline of community leaders to serve on city boards, commissions, and more.

Meet Alma and Cristina: Powerful parents in action

Q: What part of your work with the 2-Gen Coalition are you most proud of?

Alma: My favorite part of being involved is that young parents are a priority for our community and we are doing something for them. Our young parents have goals and dreams and will have an opportunity to achieve them, [while] also giving their children a better future. 

Parents need financial and emotional support. For me, the benefits [of the 2-Gen approach] is not only [setting] an example for our children, to motivate them to improve themselves and have a career, but also having a better job [which will allow us] to dedicate more time to our children. 

We know that the family is the foundation of society and I firmly believe that by implementing programs that benefit both children and parents we can have a better society.

Cristina: I feel very privileged to be able to share my experience with the same people that are creating programs to help others in my situation. I hope that by sharing my journey I can help influence change.   

 I also really enjoy meeting the people that make this community so supportive. As I get closer to completing my degree, I am interested in staying involved and giving back. This is a great group that shows me how it’s done.   

Why we love working with parents

Learning from the lived experience of parents like Alma and Cristina not only allows us to gain vital insight into the needs of our community but also empowers them to be leading voices for change. Implementing critical feedback from young parents and encouraging them to recognize their power is already creating an equitable path forward and a meaningful impact for children and families in Greater Austin. 

Stay tuned to learn about all the ways parents are using their voices for change in our community. To learn more about the 2-Gen Leadership Council, email our Director of Family Pathways, Paola Silvestre Porras, at

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