Tag: early childhood education

Company Culture that Creates Change: Texas Mutual

“Now let me start from the beginning,” Teresa Martinez, Texas Mutual Project Management, and Analysis Supervisor said. After leaving home at a young age Teresa found herself, a 17-year-old who didn’t finish high-school, working at Target with a young son at home and looking for more.   “I happened to notice a sign that read if you’re a youth and you are interested in something more than just your average job, call this number,” Teresa said. “So, I called the number on the sign and after going in and talking with counselors at the program, I called Youth Employment Services and found out that I qualified for help.”   Youth Employment Services, at the time, was a funded partner of United Way. The program helped her work towards her GED, obtain a driver’s license and most significantly, helped her get her son into childcare with Any Baby Can – a United Way affiliated partner. “That was my first introduction to United Way,” Teresa said.   Change-maker   As a 19 year Texas Mutual veteran, Teresa has eight years of United Way campaign coordination under her belt and has once again returned to the campaign as 2017 co-chair. Teresa was the volunteer special events coordinator for the United Way Campaign at Texas Mutual from 2007 – 2013 and during that time, along with the help of passionate coworkers, she organized fundraising events that allowed Texas Mutual Employees to give back to their community in a fun and rewarding way.   In […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Ahmad-Rauf Hardy

Ahmad-Rauf Hardy is a full-time volunteer in United Way for Greater Austin’s Literacy Coaching Project. He works directly with young children at Open Door Preschool to help bolster their literacy and math skills. Low-income children can be exposed to 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers by the time they reach 3 years old and the Literacy Coaching Project aims to fill in the gap for students at child care centers with subsidized spaces for low-income children. This is Ahmad’s first year as Literacy Coach, second year as an AmeriCorps member and he plans to continue making an impact for Austin children when this school year is over. United Way for Greater Austin could not provide such robust services to low-income families without the help and dedication of phenomenal AmeriCorps members like Ahmad. How much do you volunteer as an AmeriCorps member through UWATX’s Literacy Coaching Program? I find myself on campus 40 hours a week through my AmeriCorps position, and I split that time between two Open Door Preschool facilities, the one at M-station, and Open Door East. What made you interested in starting to volunteer? My sister is a teacher, and I had experience teaching in other programs with older students before this.  I think it is important to give back to the community when possible, and I like to see kids start off on the right foot with quality educational child care. What is next for you when your time with Americorps is over? I […]

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Ruthless Good, a scavenger hunt with social justice and equity in its sights

On April 8, Ruthless Good: The Great Austin Scavenger Hunt will dispatch dozens of teams from the Long Center to crack clues, solve trivia challenges, and discover photo-worthy landmarks and locales. But the rolicking hunt’s true aim is problem solving on a much grander scale–bolstering equitable community-wide access to health, education and work. I’m serving as honorary chair for the hunt, because I love the way this event shows that every Austinite can be a philanthropist and that giving is fun. Each one of us can leave the comfort of our homes, join a team, cultivate curiosity about our community, and give time or money (however limited) to support the causes we care about. And when we do it together we can have a huge collective impact. Those who join the hunt will raise awareness and funds for the United Way for Greater Austin, a powerful force for good. Each year, thousands of community members contribute to United Way through workplace campaigns and special events like Ruthless Good. United Way then pools those resources to make transformative investments in vital community programs. When you show up on April 8th or encourage others to do so, you help important initiatives that United Way funds, such as Success By 6, which launches Austin’s youngest citizens into bright futures. The early years are crucial for preparing children for school and life beyond, yet in Austin high-quality childcare often runs $10,000 or more per year, pricing out those who need it most. Success By […]

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HB4 impact in Central Texas and how you can help advocate for quality Pre-K

As the 2017 Texas Legislature is about to begin, UWATX is focusing efforts on advocating on behalf of children and their families. Pre-K has been an important issue area during past legislative sessions, and is poised to be an important issue area during this session. During the 2015 legislative session, the 84th Texas Legislature passed House Bill 4 (HB4) as part of Governor Greg Abbotts’ emergency early education initiative. Over the last 6 months, United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX), in conjunction with Texans Care for Children and Texas Education Grantmakers Advocacy Consortium, has worked to better understand Central Texas school districts’ interest in and experience with the State’s new HB 4 High Quality Pre-K grant by looking into the level and scope of district demand, the application process, the opportunities HB 4 funds bring to local Pre-K quality improvement efforts, implementation challenges, and policy opportunities for the State to strengthen support for local Pre-K priorities. The bill aimed to implement high-quality education standards for Texas Pre-K students by establishing a grant funding program of $118 million for the 2016-2017 State fiscal biennium. Under the program, funds were awarded to eligible school districts and open-enrollment charter schools who applied and agreed to meet certain enhanced quality standards. These include: curriculum requirements based on updated Pre-K guidelines; implementation of a progress monitoring tool; additional teacher education requirements; the implementation of a family engagement plan to encourage and maintain family involvement; and working towards teacher-to-student ratios of 1-to-11. HB 4 also requires […]

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Play To Learn: Filling Gaps in the Digital Divide

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) is committed to developing innovative programs that enable low income families to have access to quality educational tools for their Pre-K3 children. Since 2011, UWATX’s Success By 6 program has been partnering with several community organizations (such as Austin Travis County Integral Care’s First Steps program, Austin Public Library Camp Fire Central Texas, KLRU and the YMCA of Austin) to offer Play To Learn (PTL) in some of the higher-need areas of greater Austin. This year alone, PTL served approximately 240 families through 15 partner locations and plans to partner with additional host sites in 2017. Play To Learn Technology By introducing tablet technology to the children and parents, PTL has been helping to decrease the “digital divide” that exists between lower-income families and their higher-income peers. Throughout the 10-week curriculum, parents learn skills to help their young children prepare for success in school. Additionally, PTL programming extends past the 10-week curriculum. Parents who attend at least eight sessions receive a tablet loaded with children’s books, songs, apps, PBS videos and bookmarked websites with helpful parenting resources to further aid and foster their children’s social and cognitive development. Program Impact Since the program’s inception, hundreds of parents in Austin have learned how to better connect and engage with their children. Likewise, PTL children are gaining the confidence and social skills to better participate in learning and with each other. Post-testing of families who completed PTL in 2016 showed great success: 99% of parents reported […]

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2016 Early Care and Education Survey Results

Today, we’re proud to release the results of the 2016 Early Care and Education Survey – a look at trends across the early care field in our community and the only one of it’s kind in Central Texas. This year’s data shows more of the same positive trends we saw in 2014, and also similar challenges. Teacher education in early childhood varies widely depending on where you live Our data indicates that teacher education levels in early childhood education centers vary greatly between the regions of Travis County. 20% – 25% of East and South Austin center teachers have no early childhood education beyond high school. West, North, and Central Austin fair better with only 7-9% of teachers having no formal early childhood education training. Regional Differences in Early Childhood Education                         The survey also found that long-term teacher retention has decreased over the past two years.   Parent fees make up the bulk of funding for child care centers – including in low-income areas The survey found that centers, across nearly all regions in Travis County, depend on parent fees for the largest portion of their income. Centers in East, South and North Austin also rely on public subsidies for funding, with private donations and corporate subsidies playing a minor role for the regions as well.   Child Care Center Funding Sources                 This may be part of the reason why the cost […]

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AISD Doubles Capacity For Pre-K3 Next Year

(Via Austin ISD Press Release) Austin ISD will nearly double its capacity to teach prekindergarten for three-year-olds (Pre-K3) next year, thanks to funding from local donors. View photos from the press conference at Pleasant Hill Elementary on May 5th. “When students have a strong start, they have a strong future,” Superintendent Paul Cruz said. “We want make sure all students are given a path to success. Starting early improves the chance that students graduate college-, career- and life-ready.” AISD will be able to add Pre-K3 to 13 more schools: Barrington, Casey, Harris, Houston, Jordan, Kocurek, Metz, Ortega, Palm, Perez, Read, Sanchez and Widen elementary schools. Three years ago, AISD offered the Pre-K3 program to 42 three-year-old students at two pilot schools. This year, the program expanded to provide Pre-K3 for 550 three-year-old students funded by United Way for Greater Austin and its major donors. Next year, there will be space for more than 1,000 students thanks to the latest expansion. The partners who made this expansion possible: Buena Vista Foundation, Cullen Family Charitable Foundation, the Gottesman Family, Tapestry Foundation and Eric Stumberg with support from United Way for Greater Austin. AISD Early Childhood Director, Jacquie Porter, emphasized the strong foundation students build in Pre-K. “Prekindergarten is more than just shapes and colors. It’s about getting students ready for life,” Porter said. “In prekindergarten, students learn socializing, social and emotional learning, and how to work with others.” Registration for Pre-K is open through the beginning of the school year. However, capacity at some schools […]

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Success By 6, Local Leaders Give Updates to Stakeholders

UWATX held a breakfast briefing event at Google Fiber on February 5th to update business and philanthropic leaders and stakeholders on how far the Success By 6 program has come–and how many more children still remain unserved. Speakers included Dr. Leah Newkirk Meunier, UWATX Vice President of Mission Advancement; Mayor Steve Adler; Dr. Paul Cruz, Superintendent of Austin ISD; Elizabeth Sobel-Blum, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Catherine Morse, UWATX Board Chair; and Mollie Duckworth, WLC Member. Speaker Highlights: –Elizabeth Sobel-Blum noted four numbers to remember: 700 = In the first few years of a child’s life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second. 18 = Differences in the size of a child’s vocabulary first appear at 18 months of age, based on whether they were born into a family with high education and income, or a family with low education and income levels. 2:1 = By age three, children with college-educated parents or primary caregivers had vocabularies 2 to 3x larger than those whose parents had not completed high school. 3:1 = Adults who recall having seven or eight highly stressful experiences in childhood are 3x more likely to have cardiovascular disease. –Dr. Leah Meunier gave an update on the Success By 6 program. There are 6,344 low-income three-year-olds in Travis County. 2,036 are served through Head Start, childcare subsidies or their local school district; 4,308 remain unserved. –Mayor Adler noted that the city has increased its funding for preschool by 25% and sees it as a highly important […]

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Texas Ranks 41st in Assets & Opportunity

The 2016 CFED Assets & Opportunity Scorecard was recently released. CFED is the Corporation For Enterprise Development, an organization that works to create pathways for financial security and opportunity on a local, state and federal level. The Assets & Opportunity Scorecard ranks each state’s residents on five categories: financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and home ownership, health care and education. Within each category are multiple subcategories, such as banking, net income, unemployment rate, low-wage jobs, foreclosure rates and more. Here are a few highlights from this year’s Texas scorecard; to read rankings, 1st is better in terms of economic opportunities for residents while 51st is worst (District of Columbia included as a state in survey): Financial Assets and Income Unbanked and underbanked households 10.4% of Texas households are unbanked while 27.4% are underbanked. “Unbanked” means a household does not have a checking or savings account, while “underbanked” households may have accounts but still rely on payday loans, pawn shops or money orders to get the money they need when they need it. Nationwide, 7.7% of households are unbanked while 20% are underbanked; this puts Texas ranking 41st in unbanked households and 50th in underbanked households–nearly the worst in the nation. Income poverty rate The income poverty rate is the number of households living below the federal poverty threshold. 15.7% of Texas households live in poverty, putting the state in 37th place. The average in the U.S. is 14.5%. Businesses and Jobs Low-wage jobs The low-wage jobs rating measures the number […]

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What’s Inside a Play To Learn Kit?

We are currently prepping to serve new families and children through our Play To Learn program in Spring 2016. UWATX launched Play To Learn in 2012 to coach parents on fostering school readiness at home for children who do not attend childcare. Parents and their children attend classes at accessible neighborhood locations, such as libraries, and learn together from early learning coaches. We could not serve so many families without the help of volunteer groups, mostly from companies we run campaigns with, who assist us by setting up tablets and putting together Play To Learn take home kits. But what exactly makes up the Play To Learn curriculum? Each week, the classes have a a different theme and curriculum to go along with that theme. The eight-week program follows these themes, in order: social/emotional skills, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language development, social/emotional skills, geometry, emerging literacy and numeracy. Each week’s kit contains a book, a handout and hands-on materials needed for the lesson, such as construction paper, paints, stickers, etc. For example, the week on language development contains a Curious George book, Curious George puppets, journals, stickers and colored pencils. The puppets have questions on the back in both English and Spanish, for parents to ask their children at home to further promote language development. We also provide families with Samsung Galaxy tablets so that they can continue learning at home after each week’s class. Before the program begins, volunteers ready the tablets by setting up a Gmail account for […]

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