Tag: laura olson

GAVA! Initiatives Involve Residents in Improving Communities

GAVA (Go Austin Vamos Austin!) is a resident-led health initiative working in Austin’s neighborhoods (78744 and 78745) with highest incidence of childhood obesity to promote family wellness, increase physical activity and improve nutrition and access to healthy food. The initiative works in different areas, called sectors, to address the key factors impacting childhood obesity: parks, schools, food service/quality/availability, out-of-school time and early childhood education. The University of Texas School of Public Health and Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living provide support for GAVA through staffing as well as evaluations and analysis of outcomes. A team of nonprofit partners have also dedicated some of their staff members to assist the various sectors in identifying resident leaders and forming neighbor action teams. Laura Olson, Family Support Service Coordinator for United Way for Greater Austin’s Success By 6 team, serves as the Early Childhood Sector Manager for GAVA. She works across the early childhood community to form teams made up of childcare providers and early childhood teachers, nonprofit providers serving families with young children, home daycare providers and parents of young children. Teams meet monthly to develop plans and take action toward improving the health of their families and neighborhoods. There are many resident-led initiatives starting to come together within GAVA and the work could not be done without so many key leaders and partnerships across the communities this is taking place in. Here are only a few of the activities beginning to take shape: A team of providers and parents at […]

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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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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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