Girl Scouts Make an Impact in East Austin

Mention the words “Girl Scouts” and most people’s minds will jump to the one thing they know and love best about the organization: the cookies.  But behind the iconic, brightly colored boxes filled with those mysteriously irresistible confections are real girls with real stories who have joined the Girl Scouts on their way to becoming strong, responsible women.

For nearly a century, the Girl Scouts of America have helped girls of all ages develop confidence, social conscience, and leadership skills that they can use and build on for the rest of their lives.  The Girl Scouts of Central Texas continue this mission daily through tight-knit troops all over Austin and various neighborhood initiatives.  One such initiative is taking place in East Austin, where girls at East Austin College Prep and the surrounding Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood are given the opportunity to spend time with and learn from Girl Scout leaders.

Over the 2010-2011 school year, girls at East Austin Prep completed a leadership curriculum taught by local Girl Scout volunteers.  While the Girl Scout program was a requirement for girls in the fall, they were given the choice to continue or opt out during the spring.  The girls formed two troops, one for each the 6th and 7th grade.  Although the girls participating in the Girl Scouts have their fees waived, they engage in many of the activities of a typical troop, including the ever-anticipated cookie sales.  In addition, the girls took an active lead in community service by setting up games for kids to play at the monthly Capital Area Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry offered at the Southwest Key Headquarters.  Another significant accomplishment was a vegetable garden that they planted and continue to tend to in front of the Café del Sol.  Vegetables grown in the garden are then routinely used in the Café’s menu items.

This summer, the Girl Scouts continue their leadership program in conjunction with the 2011 STEM Summer Institute taking place at East Austin College Prep.  The Girl Scouts have proven a valuable partner to East Austin College Prep and their program promises to continue to flourish.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

September 12, 2011 at 8:15 am Leave a comment

Community Health Spotlight: Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, has become increasingly prevalent in the United States as stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, and other risk factors become more common.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of 2008, one in three adults over age 20 suffers from hypertension.  Many of the poorest Americans may go undiagnosed, a troubling thought since hypertension can be a contributing factor to many other illnesses.  For those who cannot see their doctor regularly, it is important that they find a way to routinely monitor their blood pressure.  The Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center provides just this service for residents of East Austin.

Every second Friday of the month, volunteers from Rosewood Zaragosa offer free blood pressure screenings to recipients of the Capital Area Food Bank’s Mobile Food Pantry, hosted at the Southwest Key Headquarters in East Austin.  As the line for food distribution accumulates, volunteers can check individuals’ blood pressure for them so they can know whether it is within the healthy range or not.

By providing this simple, easily-accessible service to those in need, Rosewood Zaragosa Neighborhood Center is taking a small but substantial step in improving health knowledge in East Austin.  The more residents know about their blood pressure status and the risks of hypertension, the more empowered they are to be proactive in addressing their personal health and the health of their families.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

September 7, 2011 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

UT School of Social Work Addresses Mental Health for Middle Schoolers

Mental health and physical health are two sides of the same coin.  So why is it that it’s hard to escape messages about one when the public is almost silent on the other?  Mental health has long been stigmatized not just in the United States, but around the world.  If you admit to having a mental illness, it’s as if society has smacked a giant label that reads “CRAZY” on your forehead.  And yet, mental illness is incredibly commonplace; according to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given year 26.2% of adults and 46.3% of 13- to 18-year-olds suffer from some form of mental illness, the most prevalent being anxiety disorders.

East Austin Prep is working to eliminate mental illness stigma while caring for the mental health of its middle students by offering counseling provided by the UT School of Social Work.  In neighborhoods like East Austin, where a large proportion of families are living in poverty and the unemployment rate is astronomical, it is especially important that kids have access to mental health resources.  Social work interns at East Austin Prep are readily accessible to students for one-on-one counseling, group counseling, and specialized counseling for children of incarcerated parents and stress management.

Good health is part of the foundation for living a happy, successful life, and mental health – though oft overlooked – is just as key a component to good health as physical fitness.  By offering mental health resources at the middle school level, East Austin Prep and the UT School of Social Work are doing their part to break the mental illness taboo and ensure that students have the resources they need to address any mental health issues they may be dealing with.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

August 30, 2011 at 10:15 am Leave a comment

UT School of Nursing Makes Health a Priority for Middle Schoolers

Health is currently one of the hottest topics of national interest.  A myriad of challenges loom for every active participant in the world of healthcare; doctors, insurers, government, and you and I all want to understand how to have better personal and national health, and how to improve the health care industry.  At the community level, there has been a strong push for an increased focus on health education and free screenings.  In order to best prevent health problems before they start, the focus on regular screenings and healthy living must begin at a young age.

While health class is offered as an elective in most Austin I.S.D. middle schools, East Austin Prep has taken health education one step further for its middle school students by integrating health lessons and screenings into the physical education curriculum, with help from the UT School of Nursing.  Students from the School of Nursing take simple measures of students’ health and fitness levels and teach them various aspects of maintaining good health throughout the school year.

Tying a health class to P.E. further reinforces the idea that physical fitness is an integral component to overall health and well-being.  By driving home messages about how to stay healthy while students are learning fun ways to exercise, the UT School of Nursing and East Austin College Prep have formed a successful relationship that will benefit the health of many middle schoolers to come.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

August 25, 2011 at 8:26 am Leave a comment

Travis County Constables Keep Kids Away From Gangs

Every parent has fears about the types of things their child will get involved in, from drugs to crime to unsavory body piercings.  But one thing no parent wants to see their child take part in is gang activity.  Unfortunately for some families, gangs are more prevalent and more of a risk factor for children in certain neighborhoods, especially those that are chronically impoverished and unemployed.  In order to prevent kids from joining gangs, it is vitally important for them to understand the dangers of gang membership.

East Austin College Prep is taking a proactive step against gang activity by educating their middle school students about what gangs are, how they might be pressured to join, and how to resist such pressures.  The curriculum employed is the G.R.E.A.T. (Gang Resistance Education And Training) Program from the U.S. Department of Justice, taught to students by carefully selected members of the Travis County Constables.  The constables give the students a realistic, non-sugar-coated look at the dangerous interplay of drugs, alcohol, and gangs.

Whereas in many schools officers in uniform may be viewed with fearful respect by students, the constables at East Austin Prep are considered part of the family.  Students have a strong relationship with the constables, not at all hesitant to ask questions or go to them for advice.  With the constables as a strong and reliable presence on campus, the students come to see the officers as resources and role models as well as instructors.

By taking an unwavering stance on gangs and steadily building close rapport with students, the Travis County Constables have established a firm, positive influence at East Austin College Prep.  Though there is no way for the constables to protect students every step of the way, teachers and parents can be confident that the knowledge and skills their kids learn from the constables will be a strong barrier between them and gang activity.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

August 22, 2011 at 9:19 am Leave a comment

From the Page to the Stage: Proyecto Teatro in East Austin

“To be, or not to be – that is the question.”  Almost everyone knows the opening line to Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, but how many of us can actually say we’ve been a part of a theatrical production, one that enraptures the audience and moves them to laughter or tears or quiet contemplation?  Though the modern cinema, with its exotic locales, explosions a la Michael Bay, and an army of computer-generated images has changed people’s expectations of entertainment, there is still much to be said for the stage.

Kids in East Austin now have the opportunity to take part in theater, whether they are in the audience or showcasing their talents on stage themselves.  Proyecto Teatro is a Spanish-language theater program for kids and adults that promotes bilingual literacy, engagement in the arts, and celebration of Hispanic culture.  For the past year, the Proyecto Teatro theater troupe has been actively involved at East Austin Prep through the Latino Arts Preservation Project, using the school’s facilities to practice on weekdays and perform on weekends for students and families from the community.  In addition, the players offer performance classes to East Austin Prepsters, passing along their experience in the world of theater to the students’ eager young minds.

Proyecto Teatro performances and classes emphasize the power of literature and imagination to take you almost anyplace you want to go, figuratively and by opening doors to educational opportunities.  By performing various works of literature, such as the childhood classic Where the Wild Things Are, the theater troupe introduces audiences of all ages to the idea that books are so much more than rows of words on pages.  Proyecto Teatro offers a unique cultural-theatrical-literary experience that is not only first-rate entertainment, but also plays a part in getting kids and their parents excited about reading and the world it opens up to them.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

August 10, 2011 at 8:10 am Leave a comment

Help Build Something Big at El Centro De Familia

Something exciting is coming to Southwest Key’s Centro de Familia this Fall. It’s kinda a Big deal, brightly colored, and will provide hours of fun for children in this community. Our community members will build a brand new PlayScape for children in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood. There are two ways to be involved:

1. Review the three design options and visit this survey to vote for your favorite – it could end up as the design chosen for the PlayScape to be built on September 24th! Voting ends at 9AM on Monday, August 15.

2. Join us and other community members like yourself to help build the PlayScape.  Volunteers are needed from 8am-4pm, must be 18 years or older, and will be provided breakfast and lunch. There are many different jobs volunteers can do, for example:

  • Component assembly
  • Mixing concrete (to secure posts)
  • Hauling surfacing
  • Painting
  • Landscaping
  • Site set-up (tables, tents, etc.)
  • Site Clean-Up
  • Food service
  • Registering volunteers
  • Supervising children’s activities
  • Tool distribution/collection
PlayScape Option 1

PlayScape Option 1

PlayScape Option 2

PlayScape Option 2

PlayScape Option 3

PlayScape Option 3

August 8, 2011 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

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