Join us in welcoming Laura Olson to the UWATX team as the Family Services Coordinator for Success by 6! Laura sat down with us to give us a bit of her background and share what she hopes to accomplish in her new role with United Way.
What is your background, both in the community and professionally, prior to working with United Way?
I have lived in Austin for twenty years. I’ve been working in education since I graduated from Earlham College where I got my B.A. in Spanish. I was a high school Spanish teacher and grade school teacher for eight years prior to having my children. Most of those years were spent teaching at the Austin Waldorf School and working to bring a holistic, artistic learning experience to children.
I am the mother of five children ranging in ages 2 ½ to 15. Having my own children opened my eyes to the challenges and joys of parenthood, and brought about a desire to support families with young children in their journeys. It became clear to me how critical pregnancy and the first few years of life are in the formation of a child’s health, as well as that of his/her family.
Following the footsteps of my mother and grandmother (both early childhood professionals) and because of my own personal passion, I served as the Director of Blossom Family Center, a parent education and resource center. I then served as Regional Director for LifeWays North America, where I trained caregivers and parents in early childhood development. After, I worked at El Buen Samaritano Episcopal Mission as Coordinator of its Child Learning Center. I was blessed to work with wonderful families with young children, many of whom were struggling to meet their family’s needs as monolingual, Spanish-speaking immigrants. I was charged with developing a pre-literacy curriculum, restructuring and managing the daily operations of the center to better accommodate families, and creating better working conditions for staff.
“Having my own children opened my eyes to the challenges and joys of parenthood, and brought about a desire to support families with young children in their journeys.”
– Laura Olson, Family Services Coordinator, Success by 6
What drew you to UWATX and made you feel that it was the right fit for you?
When El Buen Samaritano closed its Child Learning Center last summer due to reorganization and budgetary changes, I began seeking a position where I could continue to serve as an advocate for families and early childhood development. I am especially concerned about Austin families living in poverty, and I hoped to find a place where I could work to support and aid families with young children.
When I learned about the work of Success By 6 and UWATX as a whole, I was excited about joining a team of people who are working to support and unite those living with, working for, and providing services to families with young children. UWATX has a great reputation for doing powerful work to change the lives of those in our community for the better. I wanted to be part of that.
How do you see your role at UWATX, and what do you hope to accomplish in this job?
As Family Services Coordinator of Success By 6, I facilitate the community partners providing family support services as part of the School Readiness Action Plan. I also oversee the Play to Learn program, including quality control, data management, volunteer projects, and social networking among program parents. I provide leadership to the early childhood sector of the GAVA (Go Austin, Vamos Austin!) initiative to impact the physical health and wellness of families in Dove Springs. I oversee Family Support contracts in the Success By 6 portfolio, and I work with the Resource Development team in fund development and grant reporting.
There is so much I hope to do as a member of the Success By 6 team. I aim to increase participation, engagement, and collaboration of community partners and parents, and ensure we continue working together to meet the needs of Greater Austin families. I am eager to continue expanding the outreach and offerings of programs like Play to Learn, and to gather data demonstrating the positive impact of the program. It is essential that we continue to identify and secure funding for our efforts, and I hope to play a role in growing our resources. I am excited to work as a liaison between local and state government agencies and service providers to continue to educate our leaders and inspire informed decisions resulting in raised awareness and funding for early childhood.
I am honored to work with my esteemed Success By 6 colleagues and the rest of the fantastic UWATX team, and I hope to serve as a valuable member of this organization.
What makes Austin greater?
Local farmers’ markets; green spaces; water holes; two-step/swing/Latin dancing; food trucks; and the generally creative, interested, and caring quality of Austinites in regards to how they live and what good they can do for their community.