Archive for December, 2010

The Academy Hosts the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

On December 15th, President Peter Groff and Senior Advisor Nelson Smith of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools kicked off their series of national regional forums in Austin, TX at East Austin College Prep Academy. This event allowed charter school operators and key stakeholders to discuss key issues they would like to address for the reauthorization of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. Texas Charter Schools Association, legislative staffers, and other charter school representatives from Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas discussed how the policy impacts the students of their school each day. The meeting concluded with a tour of East Austin College Prep Academy where students and staff shared their success in the classroom.

December 29, 2010 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

Capital Area Food Bank & Southwest Key Partner to Feed East Austin-ites

What can provide 722 individuals with 6,124 pounds of healthy foods in two hours? The first visit by the Wheels of Sharing mobile pantry to SWKey’s national headquarters in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood started out with a bang! One in six Texans is at risk of hunger each day, and Southwest Key Programs (SWKey) has kicked off a new partnership with the Capital Area Food Bank (CAFB) to help those Texans. The CAFB’s mission to provide food and grocery products to hungry Central Texans and SWKey’s goal to provide families with the resources and opportunities to ensure children can thrive in our communities meet through a partnership bringing the Wheels of Sharing to the Southwest Key headquarters in East Austin.

Line and Wheels of Sharing Truck

The line begins to form for the Wheels of Sharing mobile pantry.

In this neighborhood unemployment is at 13.3%, the median household income is less than $25,000, and 27% of the residents live below the poverty line. Access to the mobile pantry on the second Friday of every month means healthy foods such as meat, beans, canned and fresh vegetables, and soup. In addition, visitors to can get help applying for food stamps. “It was very important to us that we provide resources to families. Our goal is to provide opportunity to the children in East Austin. And we all know that kids cannot thrive if they are hungry,” stated Jennifer Nelson, Vice President of Community Programs. “We are very excited about this partnership!” The Wheels of Sharing will provide food to anyone that stands in line, regardless of income level or documentation status, every second Friday of the month from 4-6pm.

– Narissa Johnson
Ext. Communications Manager

December 27, 2010 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

In recognition of Dedication to the Southwest Key Mission

The end of the year is a great time to recognize those who have made a difference in how we do our work. At the Southwest Key Programs’ National Holiday Party, annual Employee Awards were announced for staff and programs with outstanding performance and incredible dedication to the Southwest Key mission.

The recipient of the Angel Award, Richard Martinez, is an Accountant at headquarters more than ten years ago as a part-time employee after retiring from a 30-year career in accounting and management in the government sector. Since then he has overseen accounting for the unaccompanied minor federal programs, one of the largest programs for Southwest Key.

Cathy Hammonds, Executive Assistant at the Georgia programs, was named Employee of the Year for inspiring others to join her in exceeding expectations and maintaining taking ownership of problems by assessing and resolving them in a manner that consistently supports staff.

The Program Director of the Year Estela Sanchez (Staff Secure Shelter in Houston), has transformed her program by balancing a budget with serious complications; improving the admissions process to ensure that those most in need were better served, more quickly; leading a new trauma based pilot project through the shelter; and reducing on-the-job-injuries from within two years.

The Staff Secure Unaccompanied Minors Shelter in Houston won Program of the Year in recognition of the transformation it has undergone in 2010. One year ago it was a challenged program and in need of strong leadership and a reinvestment in its success by staff. Through strong leadership and dedicated staff, this shelter is now a model program throughout the agency.

– Narissa Johnson
Ext. Communications Manager

December 23, 2010 at 10:07 am Leave a comment

Sharing a Traditional Christmas Posada in East Austin

If the community come out mid-week for a show that features ballet folklorico, Vitera, a play, a break dancing burro, mariachis and Santa then it must be the Southwest Key Annual Posada. One evening last week, the East Austin community gathered to celebrate the season with a traditional Latin American Posada.

After weeks of practice, the children perform for their families and community in a beautiful celebration of the season. More than 200 members of the local community and supporters of the cultural arts program, the Latino Arts Preservation Program, watched the performance of  “La Pastorelita” (A Christmas in Mexico).


Joseph and Mary sing after the birth of Christ.

A traditional Posada will incorporate the neighborhood into the telling of the story of St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary’s search for lodging. The children’s performance of narrating, singing and dancing through the story also took the audience took the show into the streets surrounding the Southwest Key headquarters in Govalle/Johnston Terrace.

After the children’s performance, Vitera, an Austin-based band, provided entertainment as families visited with Santa Claus and participated in activities for the children, such as arts and crafts, piñatas and face painting.

The City of Austin and Southwest Key Programs sponsored the annual festival this year.

– Narissa Johnson
Ext. Communications Manager

December 21, 2010 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

Action Needed: Senate WILL VOTE on the DREAM Act SATURDAY!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate WILL VOTE on the “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act” SATURDAY!

The DREAM Act needs 60 votes tomorrow so it can move forward for debate.  Right now, the votes are VERY close.  Your senator could be the crucial vote. 

Call your senators and tell them to vote YES on the “DREAM Act”! Senators in every state should receive calls, but if your senator is listed below, please ask five friends to call too!

When you call, please use this script:

Hello.  My name is [your name] and I’m from [city, state].  I’m calling to urge Senator [senator’s name] to vote YES on the “DREAM Act” tomorrow.  Vote YES to allow debate on this important bill.

Max Baucus (D–MT)
, Kent Conrad (D–ND), 
 Kay Hagan (D–NC)
, Mary Landrieu (D–LA), 
Joe Manchin (D–WV), 
Claire McCaskill (D–MO), 
Ben Nelson (D–NE), 
 Mark Pryor (D–AR), 
Jon Tester (D–MT)

Robert Bennett (R–UT), Sam Brownback (R–KS),
 Susan Collins (R–ME), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R–TX), 
 Mark Kirk (R–IL),
 George LeMieux (R–FL),
 Richard Lugar (R–IN)
, Lisa Murkowski (R–AL), 
Olympia Snowe (R–ME)
, George Voinovich (R–OH)

In the November elections, the Latino voting block had the opportunity to make a huge difference in the outcomes for many of these senators, show them that powerful voice through these calls.

Those of you that called made a difference in the House vote, now it’s time to really push to make a difference in the Senate vote. If you didn’t get a chance to help for the House vote – here is a second chance!  Please help us make the DREAM a reality in for young people for whom this is an opportunity to achieve their dreams in the country they call “home”.

– Narissa Johnson
Ext. Comm Manager

December 17, 2010 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

Our 30 Days of Gratitude

In the midst of the holiday season, we wanted to take some time to reflect on all that we are grateful for this year and the result was 30 Days of Gratitude. If you follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our blog, some of these may sound familiar; otherwise, please take a moment to read what members of our staff are grateful for…

We are Grateful…

1.     For the more than1,000 staff across the country believes each child has a right to thrive in communities that foster success.

2.     The East Austin College Prep Academy’s dedicated teachers are available to their students until 9pm to answer questions.

3.     Dr. Juan Sanchez believes that creating change is worth pushing people to think about their part in it.

4.     We can provide healthy and nutritious food to 180 students a day, knowing learning is impossible when you’re hungry.

5.     For AMD’s Globaloria Lab where the kids at East Austin College Prep Academy learn to build socially conscious games.

6.     That the East Austin neighborhood partners with us to create change in their community… True Community Partnership.

7.     We won an award to operate a Home Study Program: provide home studies & follow-up services to youth throughout the US.

8.     The conversation around the impact minority voters could have is still going on.

9.     Our Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program prepares kids for graduation or to transfer back to their home schools.

10.   For a way to narrow achievement gaps between minority & white students: Our ideas and the New York Times article.

11.  For Veterans who fought for the American ideal of equal opportunity to build better lives – Thank you!

12.  The kids are practicing Christmas songs…it makes me happy to hear when I enter the breezeway!

13.  ChannelAustin is filming a PSA for us today!

14.  For all who participated in the East Austin Studio Tour! It’s such a vibrant part if our city with so much to offer!

15.  Ballet Austin partners w us to offer the opportunity for our young people to experience the arts & attend shows.

16.  The East Austin College Prep Academy has a great spokesperson like Marisol Rocha, the principal!

17.  Our students believe in themselves! “I have a feeling that we are really going to change the world one day.”- East Austin College Prep student.

18.  State Farm Youth Advisory Board in Austin has funded teen programs at our schools for the last three years.

19.  Luis from ProyectoTeatro spent his whole day with us as the community representative at our Quality Assurance meeting.

20.  AARP Texas partners with our Children’s Promise on the Vota! Campaign. We saw a huge jump in registration this year with your help!

21.  Our partners The Cipher have taken Austin by storm with their message of social change.

22.  To have such great partners, like Boys & Girls Clubs of the Austin Area, to provide after school activities for youth in East Austin!

23.  For the chance to be part of the Put Kids 1st Juvenile Justice Roundtable promoting these priorities for the 82nd TX Lege.

24.  For all family and HQ staff attending the Day Treatment Program students’ end-of-semester spoken word poetry performance. It’s awesome!

25.  For our community coming out to celebrate with us on December 15th at the Southwest Key Annual Posada!

26.  For 80+ staff members who have been with us for more than 10 years!

27.  To be ranked the 5th largest Hispanic nonprofit in the country by Hispanic Giving Magazine with a staff & board who represent the cultural backgrounds of those we serve.

28.  We invested in high-end massage chairs for dozens of our program locations as a benefit to our hard working staff.

29.  Our leadership understands that, in order to make a large-scale impact on the lives of those we serve, we must invest in the communities where they live, learn, and play.
And finally…
30.  You! We’re grateful for all the partners, staff & families who help us give children opportunities to succeed! Thank You!
Best to you and your families,
All of us at Southwest Key Programs.

December 14, 2010 at 7:08 am Leave a comment

Volunteers Needed for the Annual Posada – 12/15

Next Wednesday is the Southwest Key Annual Posada! Are you planning to come? Would you like to volunteer?
Contact Val Gomez ( or 512.287.5026)

Posada Volunteer Descriptions
December 15, 2010 – All times PM, unless otherwise noted.

Chair Set Up – Chairs will be delivered and we just need to unfold and set them up for the show.
Time: 10:30-11:30AM (depending on how many people come)
Location: Breeze-way
Check In: Daniel Hinojosa or Santos in the Breezeway

Decoration Set Up – Assist in decorating the breeze way and community center
Time: 4:00-5:30 (depending on how many people come)
Location: Breeze-way
Check In: Maria Tellez in the Breezeway

Sign-In Table – Greet guests and give them information on Southwest Key Programs.
Time: 5:30-7:15 and 7:15-8:30
Location: Breeze-way
Check In: Val Gomez or Volunteer at Sign-In Table

Hospitality – Greet guests and provide information on activities and help if they are lost
Time: 5:30-7:15 and 7:15-8:30
Location: Floating
Check In: Volunteer at Sign-In Table

Cafe – Assist in preparation and distribution for the food. Must be at least 18 or have restaurant experience.
Time: 5:30-7:15 and 7:15-8:30
Location: Floating
Check In: Volunteer at Sign-In Table

Santa’s Elves – Assist with toy and candy cane distribution and help Santa with the line of children
Time: 7:15-8:30
Location: Community Room
Check In: Sign-In Table

Pan Dulce Cut – Cut pan dulce in half so there is more to distribute.
Time: 10:30-11:30AM
Location: Café or Community Room
Check In: Blanca Valencia

Pan Dulce Distribution – Distribute pan dulce for attendees. Must be 18 or older.
Time: 7:15-8:30
Location: Community Room
Check In: Blanca Valencia

Arts and Crafts – Assist children with arts and crafts (tape, color, draw, etc). Activities and materials will be provided.
Time: 7:15-8:30
Location: Community Room
Check In: Sign-In Table

Face Painting – Paint simple holiday themed objects on children’s faces.
Time: 7:15-8:30
Location: Community Room
Check In: Sign-In Table

Chair Take-Down – Put away chairs in community room ready for pick up the next day
Time: 8:20-until finished! – more volunteers means we finish earlier!
Location: Breezeway
Check In: We will just begin putting away chairs

Clean Up – Complete miscellaneous duties (i.e. pick up trash, move items back to where they belong, etc) so that Southwest Key and East Austin Children’s Prep Academy can function normally the next day.
Time: 8:20- until finished! – more volunteers means we finish earlier!
Location: Breezeway  and Community Room
Check In: We will just begin cleaning


December 10, 2010 at 6:14 pm Leave a comment

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