Tag: early childhood education

Volunteer Feature: Mark Capehart, Kerbey Lane Cafe

Kerbey Lane Cafe puts smiles on people’s faces every day with their iconic delicious pancakes, but that’s not the only way they make Austin greater. Through their well-established philanthropic core values, Kerbey Lane Cafe emphasizes the importance of philanthropy by supporting for UWATX through running employee giving campaigns and setting up volunteer opportunities for their employees. From school beautification projects to displaying UWATX table tents at their restaurants, they do it all! Mark Capehart, KLC – Round Rock Community Ambassador, is a longtime committed UWATX volunteer. KLC restaurant managers go by the title of “Community Ambassador” and make corporate social responsibility a priority by engaging their team with volunteer opportunities. For years, Mark has been the philanthropic liaison for Kerbey Lane Cafe and helped coordinate the adoption of local child development centers that he and his staff volunteer at on a continuing basis. We are proud to have dedicated volunteers like Mark, so we sat down with him and asked him about his experiences leading Kerbey Lane Cafe’s volunteer efforts: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you began leading the volunteer efforts for Kerbey Lane Cafe? My interest is really selfish. I like to volunteer; I want to help out. Through this outlet, I am able to be very warmly received anywhere; when Kerbey Lane wants to volunteer, everybody gets excited about it. Having such willing and positive support from the company really makes so many opportunities possible.  Planning and coordinating events with Nikki (UWATX Director of Volunteer Engagement) really makes the […]

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Tips on How to Choose a Childcare Provider

Finding the right childcare environment for your child can be an difficult task. As a parent, you want to verify that your child is receiving quality childcare throughout the early stages of their lives. Whether you decide on in-home care or out-of-home care, here are some tips on how to help you decide what is most suitable for your child’s need provided by KidsHealth.org:   If you are considering a childcare setting, spend some time observing the center and staff, as well as talk to the parents who already have their kids enrolled. Evaluate what you observed and what other parents said about the childcare center or provider. Consider the child-rearing disciplines and ask yourself if they resonate with your personal discipline style. If you find interest with in-home care, which involves hiring a nanny or au pair, it is recommended to use licensed agencies for your hiring process. In-home care works well for parents that have careers with busy schedules, usually jobs that require business trips and working overtime. If you decide to hire an in-home caregiver, create guidelines and rules that outline job duties, hours, pay and other obligations. Parents should make sure that the nanny or au pair has the resources and support to be a positive caregiver. Always make yourself available by phone in case an emergency occurs. Interview your prospective hire at least twice and conduct a criminal background check. It is critical that you verify all staff have passed background checks. Ask your potential caregiver questions […]

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UWATX Unveils the SRAP 2015-2018

SRAP 2012-2015 In 2012, UWATX unveiled the first phase of the School Readiness Action Plan (SRAP), an ambitious three-year plan to increase the percentage of children who enter Kindergarten school ready. This plan is made possible by a large community coalition made up of caring community leaders, advocates, parents, service providers and educators, all dedicated to improving life for Austin’s children. The 2012-2015 Action Plan included strategies to leverage public funding, engage public officials and business leaders and target existing services more strategically. It also proposed increasing per capita spending on early childhood by 20 percent and targeting existing programs to focus on younger children. The results we’ve seen from the first phase of this plan are clear and positive: it is creating real change in the lives of young children and families in Central Texas. Since the plan went into effect in 2012: The percentage of children who entered kindergarten “school ready” increased by 5 percent, from 49 percent to 54 percent last year. The number of vulnerable families receiving home visiting services in our county nearly tripled, improving health outcomes for the children and dramatically reducing the likelihood of child abuse in these homes. The City of Austin increased their Health and Human Services funding for early childhood by nearly $1 million over the three year period. The Austin Public Library more than doubled the number of bilingual storytimes in low-income communities as a response to community advocacy. View all results from the 2012-2015 Action Plan. This plan […]

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AISD Grant Will Provide Pre-K For Nearly 500 Low-Income Kids

There a strong correlation between high-quality early childhood education and overall academic success. This trend is even more important for children from low-income families, many of whom cannot afford quality pre-K or childcare, and therefore have a higher chance of entering kindergarten behind their peers. We held a press conference on April 2 at Lucy Read Pre-Kindergarten School to announce that we are providing a $215,000 grant to Austin Independent School District to open more Pre-K classrooms for low-income three-year-olds next year. [youtube id=SVCFoRHv9PE] Currently, AISD serves 64 income-eligible children in a Pre-K 3 pilot program in two high-need elementary campuses in East Austin. AISD’s Pre-K 3 program currently provides half-day instruction to children who have not participated in formal early education. The $215,000 grant will allow for the opening of 15 additional AISD Pre-K 3 classrooms—four classrooms will provide full-day instruction—serving an additional 480 students. “We have piloted the Pre-K 3 program this year with great success and are grateful to United Way for Greater Austin for this generous donation to expand this important program to more students and schools in our district next school year,” Dr. Paul Cruz, AISD superintendent, said. “We work to give our students the best possible foundation, and it begins with early childhood education.” The grant is made possible by donations from three generous Austin families: Eric and Keri Stumberg, Sandy and Lisa Gottesman, and John Cullen. Donations from the Gottesmans and John Cullen were made in honor of John’s wife, Sue Cullen, who passed away in 2010. The funds will be used for the […]

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Tapestry Foundation grant will expand Play To Learn

In 2011, United Way for Greater Austin launched the Play To Learn program, made possible through a Tapestry Foundation grant. As a result of the grant, thirty parents received UWATX’s unique eight-week course providing free education for underserved parents and their 2- and 3-year-old children. Since then, more than 400 families have benefitted from the Play To Learn program. We are pleased to announce that in 2015, the Tapestry Foundation will help this program expand even further with an additional $75,000 grant given to UWATX. The Tapestry Foundation is a private family foundation that awards grants to Austin organizations providing programs around early childhood and parenting education, as well as literacy-based and social-emotional learning programs. Thanks to initial grants from the Tapestry Foundation, UWATX was able to gain additional funders in support of the project, including Samsung, Famigo, Applied Materials, Daniels Fund and some very generous private donors, as well as additional partners. From 2000 to 2010, Austin experienced a 71% increase in the number of low-income children under the age of 6. Children living in poverty face risks other children may not, and are less likely to enter school socially, emotionally and cognitively ready.  The Play To Learn program works by intervening before a child enters kindergarten, rather than children entering school unprepared and having to be caught up, wasting school districts’ time and money in additional resources. Additionally, the child now has a better chance of graduating high school and college, and securing a job with a livable wage. […]

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How to Choose Toys for Young Children This Holiday Season

With the holidays just around the corner, we asked Success By 6 Family Services Coordinator, Laura Olson, to share ideas and information about selecting safe and appropriate toys for young children, as informed by the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children).   Let’s start with “safety first,” as they say! Safe toys for young children are: well-made (with no shared parts or splinters, and do not pinch) painted with nontoxic, lead-free paint shatter-proof easily cleaned Electric toys should be “UL Approved.” Be sure to check the label, which should indicate that the toy has been approved by Underwriters Laboratories. In addition, when choosing toys for children under age 3, make sure there are no small parts or pieces that could become lodged in a child’s throat and cause choking or suffocation. It is important to remember that typical wear and tear can result in a once-safe toy becoming hazardous. Adults should check toys frequently to make sure they are in good shape.    Good Toys and Activities for Young Children In addition to being safe, toys for young children need to match their stages of development and emerging abilities. Toys that encourage interaction with an adult can be beneficial to both parent and child. Children not only benefit from ample independent play, but also from meaningful one-on-one attention and play with a loving adult. Books, cooking supplies, art activities and items used for nature play can be especially supportive of relationship-based learning and play. A limit to electronic or media-themed toys […]

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UWATX Presents at TX Statewide Early Learning Summit

Last week, the cities of Fort Worth and Austin co-hosted a summit on early learning. This summit was the culmination of the National League of Cities’ Education Alignment for Young Children initiative. Austin and Fort Worth are among six cities nationwide that received this technical assistance grant to help with educational alignment for young children. The summit focused specifically on Texas, and dozens of early education experts spent the day learning about efforts in six communities- Austin, Forth Worth, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. “It was a very interesting and informative day that allowed us to reflect on our community’s efforts, share successes and lessons learned, and gain insight in how other communities are tackling the same challenges and issues.” –Dr. Alison Bentley, Success By 6 Coordinator Austin’s representatives included UWATX president, Debbie Bresette; SB6 coordinator, Dr. Alison Bentley; Travis County planner, Tara Carmean; E3’s Director of School Readiness, Laura Koenig; and Dr. Rosamaria Murillo and Cynthia Gamez from the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department. Members from each city were able to share their work, exchange ideas and become part of a peer learning network on early childhood educational alignment. Groups were asked to present about best practices in their community including what has worked well in the past and what challenges they encountered. Dr. Bentley, in collaboration with Tara Carmean, presented on the School Readiness Action Plan of Austin/Travis County (SRAP)–-our community plan to ensure that school readiness becomes and remains a top priority. Specifically, their presentation […]

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Spotlight: Laura Olson

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 […]

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City Council Candidate Forums Recap

Success By 6 hosted eight Austin City Council candidate forums in settings all over Austin to learn more about the candidates’ views on issues affecting families with young children. More than 40 of the 78 candidates participated in the non-partisan, positive conversations, and dozens of community residents took the chance to ask questions and learn more about the aspiring civic leaders. “My faith in democracy soared as I participated in these forums. The candidates were thoughtful, warm, and well-informed – and they truly want to serve their communities. After the elections, I plan to stay in touch with not only the new council members, but also with the cadre of amazing candidates who didn’t win. It is inspiring to see and hear their passion about our beautiful city and the neighborhoods they live in. I wish I could vote for more than one!”   Sue Carpenter, VP, Success By 6. When Austinites head to the ballot box this fall, we will be making decisions that will dramatically shake up the leadership structure of our community. Not only will we be electing a new mayor, but our influential city council will have at least nine new members – with one representative for each of ten newly formed districts. The council makes crucial decisions about how our city is managed and how to spend our precious tax dollars. Our goal for the forums was to learn more about each candidate – many who have never run for office before – and to […]

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