A little over a year ago, a group of young professionals began meeting and discussing ways that we could make a positive change in some of Austin’s most vulnerable communities. I’m proud to have been part of that group. We’ve had the chance to get to know each other better, help the community, and have a lot of fun along the way. More importantly, we’ve had the chance to be inspired by an amazing group of kids that are working to make Austin greater.
You don’t have to take my word for it:
I’m humbled by the accomplishments of the group over the last year and wanted to share a few of our key initiatives.
- Volunteering at UWATX’s Manor Summer Program – This year, we had the opportunity to help out with UWATX’s Summer Program at Decker Middle School. In this program, 75 plus low income middle schoolers had the chance to participate in a seven-week program designed to combat the effect of “summer slide.”
As noted by Target Graduation Director Nichole Lopez- Riley, ““We know that a lack of summer learning contributes substantially to students falling behind academically across many subjects. This initiative is aimed to provide students with the materials, project-based learning opportunities and access to services they need during the summer break to be successful.”
A highlight of the program was Summer Learning Day on June 20. The day was a chance for students in the UWATX Manor Summer Program to interact with volunteers and learn more about how to advocate for their neighborhood. Through interaction and discussion, they also had a chance to learn more about a wide variety of careers.
- YLS Virtual Giveathon – In addition to giving our time, members of the YLS raised a significant amount of money. During a two-week period, 70 YLS members inspired over 200 individuals to support the campaign and raised over $125,000. Along the way, we had the chance to share our thoughts on the work and each other. We also learned how a dedicated group of committed individuals could make a difference. YLSer Andrew Castillo of 3M summed it up as “These types of experiences led me to one unavoidable conclusion: we only have each other. Life absolutely isn’t fair. The kindness of everyday people is one of the only tools we have to at least make life…livable.”
- Working With (And Being Inspired by) Middle Schoolers – Ultimately, the most impactful thing for everyone was the chance to work hand-in-hand with an inspiring group of middle schoolers. We had a number of opportunities throughout the school year to work on volunteer projects and learn from them.
We met a group of middle school students that donated 865 hours to volunteer work this year. We heard from Webb Middle School Principal Raul Sanchez on his inspiration. We got a middle school perspective on leadership from a student leader. These are just a few of the inspiring stories throughout the community that we had the chance to help tell.
Many of our members are making a difference beyond the neighborhoods we directly serve and throughout the Austin area. (If you want to get to know a few of them, here’s a profile).
YLS President Marcus Everett summed up the contributions of the group best:
Jeremiah Bentley is the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Texas Mutual Insurance Company, the Communications Chair for the UWATX Young Leaders Society and a member of the UWATX Board of Directors. In his own words, he’s really “just a guy whose mom raised him to give back in every way possible.”