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 […]Read More
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, […]Read More
Spring Play To Learn Classes Graduate
As our Play To Learn program runs on a school year schedule, we just wrapped up our spring semester and are launching our summer groups with about 30 families participating. This year so far, a total of 204 families graduated from Play To Learn or an extension class through YMCA, which is a combination of Play To Learn and YMCA’s Early Learning Readiness program. Through Play To Learn, not only did young children leave with new skills but parents learned how to foster their child’s optimal development at home. Parents and children attended classes together with the following themes: • Social skills • Gross motor skills • Fine motor skills • Language Development • Emotional regulation skills • Geometry • Numeracy • Emerging Literacy “Honestly, this program did help my daughter a lot. My children are naturally very shy and now my daughter is less introverted and more social. I really did see a huge change in my daughter and I highly recommend the class. The reason I never missed a class is because I could tell my daughter loved being there and benefited greatly.” –Maria R. Attendees also learned digital literacy skills by practicing various tasks and using the pre-loaded educational apps on the Samsung tablets provided by United Way for Greater Austin. It is important to bridge the “digital divide” between low-income families and their more affluent peers now more than ever. Internet access is no longer a luxury but a necessity for individuals to complete homework, fill […]Read More
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 […]Read More