Tag: Education

Community Partner Spotlight: Mainspring Schools

Since opening its doors in 1941, Mainspring Schools has been a best-in-class nonprofit preschool that works to eliminate the early childhood school readiness gap. Their mission is “to deliver the highest quality early education and care to Austin’s most economically disadvantaged children – along with services so each child and parent have tools for success in school and life.” With a mission like that and its dedication to providing high-quality, innovative, and researched based services to all children, Mainspring serves as a model for early childhood centers in Austin and beyond. As the backbone organization for early childhood in Austin/Travis County, United Way supports more than 20 childcare centers serving children from low-income families. Mainspring envisions a future in Austin in which all students have an equal opportunity to start school with the skills, support and wellness to compete and succeed in school and life. “We firmly believe that you have to start early to build a strong foundation for at-risk kids. If you get the first years right, the path to success is clearer for our children,” says Jason Gindele, Executive Director for Mainspring. Gindele’s says of his team that they “often say, facetiously, that [their] mission is to get rid of all other charities. That’s obviously not true, but [they] do believe that if you get the first years of a child’s life right, it can prevent so many issues down the road that require the attention of our society.” In Travis County, 42 percent of children under […]

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Volunteer Spotlight: Beth Tracy, IBM

United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) and IBM have a deep partnership, and much of this is accredited to Beth Tracy, IBM Manager of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs. Beth has been making Austin Greater with UWATX since 2002. She served on the Hands on Central Texas Advisory Board for two years from 2004-06 guiding the team to inspire, mobilize and equip volunteers to create sustainable change in the Austin community. Nikki Krueger, Director of Community Engagement and Youth Development at United Way for Greater Austin, explains,“When I entered the world of community and volunteer engagement, Beth was one of the first people I met through the Hands On Central Texas Advisory Council. She is a model for corporate community engagement and she never shies away from a leadership role. She is an incredible advocate and friend.” Beth also served on the Success By 6 Leadership Council as Vice Chair from 2010-11 and Chair from 2012-14 leading the team towards innovative and sustainable solutions for Austin’s youngest residents. Sue Carpenter, Vice President of Success By 6 adds, “Beth has been a long-time, highly valued SB6 volunteer leader, culminating in a term as chair of the SB6 Leadership Council. Her calm, professional style set the tone for effective and productive meetings and her understanding of appropriate volunteer leadership roles allowed her to mentor experienced and rookie advisory board members. Beth listens carefully and seeks understanding before giving advice or guidance, and her insightful questions often helped me reach better decisions over the years. […]

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Now Accepting Proposals

United Way for Greater Austin seeks to award up to $90,000, divided evenly into three awards of $30,000, to three qualified community organizations to deliver effective programs and services that assist parents and children together, increasing their family stability and self-sufficiency. Since 1924, United Way for Greater Austin  has worked locally to build philanthropy and support programs that break the cycle of poverty. UWATX programs and activities are designed to jump start sustainable solutions for low-income families and drive collective change by aligning public and private support. Our programs work together to provide low-income families with the skills and resources they need to take an active role in their own success. Our community investments illuminate this commitment. UWATX’s funding priorities are centered on three interrelated focus areas: Education: Children and youth are happy, healthy, and prepared for success in school and in life. Income: Families have equitable access to economic and social opportunities. Health: Families in Central Texas are physically and mentally healthy. Within each focus area, UWATX partners with community stakeholders to identify proven strategies toward a common goal. Community investment grants represent a strategic opportunity to identify critical community partners and enhance and create active collaborations for the greatest impact. Our community investment grants are made possible by the financial contributions of thousands of community investors each year. UWATX is committed to serving as a strategic steward of these community dollars. UWATX anticipates three awards of $30,000 each under this RFP. Read the Request for Proposal and sign up for the informational session taking place on Sept. 16.

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Two-Gen Programs Aim to Break Cycle of Poverty

At United Way for Greater Austin, we focus on wrapping our arms around entire families and fighting the root causes of poverty. A family living in poverty rarely struggles with only one factor causing their situation, and therefore cannot rise out of poverty by only receiving one type of aid or only one person in the family receiving help. As an example, let’s say Diane is a single mom of three children. Diane is working fulltime making minimum wage during the day and also has a side job at night to make extra money. She must pay for childcare for her youngest child during the weekdays, and is having trouble making ends meet to pay the rent, put food on the table and clothing on her children’s backs. She has no opportunity for promotion at work as she only speaks Spanish and only has her GED. As a result, she is also struggling with depression and feels she has no support. Her oldest child watches the other two after school, and he is struggling with grades and never has time or help with his homework because of this. If Diane receives one service, such as food stamps, this will help her put food on the table—but the fact remains that the family is still unable to be lifted out of poverty due to the variety of other factors affecting them. This is where two-generation, or “two-gen,” programs come into play. Many programs focus solely on low-income children or low-income adults, […]

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National Book Week

National Book Week 2016 is upon us – what better way to celebrate than to get your child involved by finding a good book to get hooked on? Reading allows a child to use their imagination and develop social, emotional, gross motor and fine motor skills that are important to their success in school and life. ReachoutandRead.org states that, “Children who fall seriously behind in the growth of critical early reading skills have fewer opportunities to practice reading. Evidence suggests that these lost practice opportunities make it extremely difficult for children who remain poor readers during the first three years of elementary school to ever acquire average levels of reading fluency.” So how do you get your child to love to read? Here are a few suggestions: Limit Media Time It’s easy to switch on the TV after a long day at work in order to quiet down your kiddos. However, best practices suggest to balance TV or media time with reading. Next time your child wants to watch their favorite TV show, suggest that they pick up a book instead or have to read for 30 minutes before being allowed to play their video games. Share Reading Experiences Reading together can be used to not only bond with your child, but is an important activity that allows you to discuss elements of a story with them. Once you have completed a book, open up a conversation discussing your favorite/least favorite part of the story, character development and common themes in the story. […]

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Volunteers Scaring for a Good Cause!

In celebration of the spookiest time of the year, UWATX’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) members volunteered at Decker Middle School’s Fright Night last week. Fright Night, one of Decker’s most popular student events, allows students to use their creativity while coordinating with YLS volunteers to transform the school into a “haunted house”. Volunteers helped set up, scared students as they moved through the haunted house and took photos of the students for souvenirs. Fright Night helps sponsor the AVID program at Decker Middle School, which gives students the opportunities to attend field trips to college campuses and provides in class activities around career and college readiness. We had the opportunity to talk with Julie Fisher, YLS Chair, about her volunteering experience the Fright Night event. What were some of the activities you were involved in during Fright Night? I was involved with set up, setting the kids in waves down the stairwell and cleanup/breakdown. Describe your favorite part of the night Watching the kids give each other pep talks before going into the Haunted House. The event itself is always a blast, but I love the set up and break down with the students. It is a great opportunity to interact with them and give them a chance to give us the orders on how to set up the different rooms and halls. It was encouraging to see how excited they were after they received such positive feedback from their peers on how “awesome” the experience was. What do you enjoy […]

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International Literacy Day 2015

Did you know that children growing up in homes with at least 20 books get three years more schooling than children from bookless homes, independent of their parents’ education, occupation and class? Today (September 8th) is International Literacy Day, and we are taking the opportunity to stress the importance of beginning to teach your children to read as soon as possible. Here are some classroom/home activities you can take part in while celebrating International Literacy Day, provided by internationalliteracyday.org: Scavenger Hunt Create a scavenger hunt where the answers are found in a book. This keeps your child active, engaged and critically thinking while making a game out of learning. Read-a-thon Encourage children to read as many books as possible within a certain time period (a day, a week, a month, etc.). Help them to track the books they are reading and monitor their progress on a chart to show how much they’ve read over time. Book Sale/Exchange Have any old books you want to toss out? Host a book sale/exchange at your school, or even in your driveway à la garage sale. This is an inexpensive way to not only find new books for your child to love, but spread the love of reading to even more children in your community. Writing Competition Host a writing competition within your  family and provide a special theme. You can even make it more challenging by developing a list of required vocabulary words to include in the story. First prize? A trip to your local bookstore! Character Dress Up […]

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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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Back to School Savings Tips

School is right around the corner, and every year it seems like back to school shopping gets more expensive. From pencils to textbooks, there’s a lot to spend on in order to prepare your child adequately for the school year. In 2014, the National Retail Foundation reported that the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics. That’s a huge cost – and one that not every family can afford. It is important that every student begins the school year with the resources they need to be successful. If you are looking to minimize costs, here are some tips and resources on how to do so: AISD Back to School Bash On August 15 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Austin ISD will be hosting the 10th Back to School Bash at the Palmer Events Center. There will be free backpacks for AISD students filled with school supplies (while supplies last), free vision exams and free vaccination opportunities. Be sure to bring your child’s shot record! AISD will also be providing free shuttles at various locations throughout Austin. Find out more information on the shuttles here. Shop at Local Thrift and Second Hand Stores Most people go straight to big name stores when they shop for back-to-school however, thrift stores can be some of the best places to find affordable gently-used clothing for the school year. Find a Goodwill Central Texas or Salvation Army to find some quality second-hand bargains which will help you save in […]

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Free Educational Summer Activities for Children

Think about when you take time off of work to go on vacation. It can be hard to get back in the groove of things when you return; this is similar to what your kids experience when they have time off from school. When school is out of session, many children struggle to find educational opportunities in the summer months. According to the National Summer Learning Association, research spanning 100 years show that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer break than they do on the same tests at the beginning of summer break (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004). It is critical for kids to keep their minds active to avoid the summer learning loss that so many children unfortunately experience. Summer is actually a great time to strengthen a child’s academic skills while still balancing other nonacademic fun summer activities. Here is a diverse list of FREE educational summer activities for your kids to enjoy this summer that will help prevent digression in their academic skills: Literacy Luau at Bright Horizons at Round Rock On Saturday, July 18th from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Bright Horizons at Round Rock is offering a Hawaiian-themed event that will include storytelling using Smart board technology, family-oriented literacy activities and a hula dance performance from Island Rhythms Hula Company. Parents can also learn how to document literacy for all ages! Summer Playgrounds Program  Summer Playgrounds is a drop-in program providing quality recreational experiences that […]

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