More than 70,000 children in Central Texas live in poverty and face challenges that stand in the way of learning, like hunger, trauma, homelessness, poverty and poor health. Without community support, they are more at risk for missing school, dropping out and failing to earn a high school diploma. Community In Schools (CIS) sees potential in every student, and they are committed to helping students believe in their own ability to achieve.
CIS are experts at bringing communities together for students. They collaborate with school districts and schools, deliver resources, work with local businesses, social service agencies, healthcare providers and volunteers to support students and families in overcoming obstacles and roadblocks to success. Thanks to this collaborative network, our community is a better place for students in need. United Way for Greater Austin is proud to fund the ASPIRE program run by CIS, and we are thrilled to see the convening of different entities committed to creating bright futures for all our neighbors.
ASPIRE (Achieving Success through Parental Involvement, Reading and Education) breaks the cycle of illiteracy and poverty within families by providing comprehensive, integrated literacy services for the entire family. This dual-generation (or 2-Gen) program brings parents and children together for educational success. School Readiness is the result of a process that starts at birth and relies on the home environment and parental involvement to help them achieve Success by 6. ASPIRE serves families with children that are living in poverty in Travis County. Parents experiencing poverty face multiple barriers to becoming engaged citizens and productive workers, and their children may lack the resources and opportunities to become well-educated or School Ready. Unfortunately, these barriers begin to manifest and solidify well before children reach kindergarten.
Located in southeast Austin at Travis High School, ASPIRE provides 20 hours per week of on-site classes. It is a safe place with high-quality infant, toddler and preschool classrooms. They have created a safe place where parents and children may begin each day singing songs, playing, and reading books together. Parents also attend ESL and High School Equivalency classes just down the hall from their children where they discover support and friendship with other parents. These Austin Community College adult education classes have strong outcomes for parents and empower them in their everyday life. Research shows that the strongest predictor of a child’s future academic success is the education level of their mother, and ASPIRE is helping to get families there together.
In addition to the parent/child education programs, ASPIRE provides weekly parenting classes where moms learn strategies for positive discipline and grow confidence in their individual parenting skills. ASPIRE’s parent educators also provide home visits helping parents transform their home into a learning environment using the “Parents As Teachers” curriculum. They track the vocabulary attainment and developmental progress of children, making referrals to community resources as merited. This program is a funnel for multiple community resources, connecting the most-in-need families with valuable help, including early childhood interventions, nutrition classes, domestic violence protection, health and dental services and car seat safety.
The CIS staff are motivated and impassioned by the countless stories of hope and transformation that ASPIRE families experience. Stories such as:
Rubi was referred to Early Childhood Intervention services for speech delays as a toddler. She just received an award for writing the best poem in her first-grade class.
Farida came to ASPIRE unable to read in her native language because she was never taught. Now she reads books in English to her 4-year-old son.
Jessica became pregnant as a teenager and could not complete her High School diploma. She [recently] obtained her GED and is now a substitute teacher.
Sandra was a victim of domestic violence. She came to ASPIRE afraid she would lose her home and her boys. She is now safe, working full time, and receiving supportive therapy.
ASPIRE children start school “Kindergarten-ready” and outperform their peers on standardized testing for years after participating in the program. ASPIRE parents are engaged and educated advocates for their children. No family arrives with the same set of circumstances and no family receives the same set of services. Families come to the program overwhelmed, isolated, discouraged, but they leave as empowered members of our community.
Do you want to help them make a difference? Communities In Schools has a range of volunteer opportunities including one-time events and ongoing commitments. To learn more please visit www.ciscentraltexas.org and click on the Get Involved section. If you would like to learn more about the ASPIRE program or to make a family referral, please call 512-841-8571 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We can all help families move out of isolation and into a caring community where successes are celebrated. Where parents understand that they are their child’s first and most important teacher. Where hope takes root. Share some love with ASPIRE, where they are #Allinforkids, all the time.