Archive for May, 2011

Walk of Heroes Family Fiesta Celebrates Pedro Garza

When Southwest Key decided to move to East Austin and create change for a neighborhood living with decades of concentrated poverty they had the buy-in and support of the families in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood. But they also needed a champion, a hero, who believed this change could happen and supported what would become the East Austin Children’s Promise. Pedro Garza was that hero – he believed in the power of education and what the people in this neighborhood could accomplish.

Annually Southwest Key invites the community to El Centro de Familia for a family fiesta. This year the fiesta also included the unveiling of the Walk of Heroes and recognition of the first honoree, Pedro Garza. Mr. Garza was instrumental in bringing $4 million in investments to support turning land that was once a dumping ground in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood into El Centro de Familia. El Centro de Familia now hosts the national headquarters of Southwest Key Programs, the social enterprise complex, and is home to the East Austin Children’s Promise initiative – including the East Austin College Prep Academy.

The Walk of Heroes Family Fiesta was a celebration of spring that included non-stop activities and entertainment including children’s activities and cultural experiences for the entire family.  Guests were able to visit booths and learn about services offered by local organizations, crafts, mariachis, games, piñatas, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting, snow cones…and much more! In addition, the Latino Arts Preservation Program students’ showcase featured ballet folklorico and a bilingual theatrical performance.

Community partner New York Life offered Identikits for families that included a fingerprint and photo of a child. The kit can then be given to police to aid in finding a child if they go missing. Seton Family of Hospitals brought a nurse and a dietitian to conduct glucose and blood sugar tests and provide information about diabetes.

Visit our Flickr site for photos from the Walk of Heroes Family Fiesta!

~ Narissa Johnson
External Communications Manager

May 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm Leave a comment

Packed House at East Austin Candidates’ Forum

Earlier this month the East Austin Vota Campaign hosted the 2011 City Council Candidates’ Forum. As part of the Vota Campaign, the Candidates’ Forums continue to demonstrate the increasing participation of minority voters and has become one of the largest and most well attended forums in Austin.

Addressing a packed house, 9 of the 11 candidates for Austin City Council had the opportunity to address the audience and answer prepared questions from representatives of the East Austin Voter Mobilization Initiative (EAVMI). The questions focused on issues of importance directly affecting residents of East Austin.

The candidates answered questions about environmental issues such as the relocation of the Pure Casting Foundry (which residents express concern about toxic pollution in a residential neighborhood and nearby Zavala Elementary School) and the purchase of 28 acres adjacent to Roy Guerrero Colorado River Park and the community’s proposal that it be designated as a preserve.

Other issues addressed included the “Gentleman’s Agreement”, considered to embody institutionalized racism that the City of Austin has yet to address. The community asked for a “champion” to support and recognize that the City Council is currently an at large system and each council member needs to represent all community interests and not defer minority issues to the “black & brown” members on the Council. That led to the next logical question of what candidates thought about a shift to single member districts.

Below is the Twitter feed from the Candidates’ Forum that evening:

• Community is gathering for the ATX City Council Candidates’ Forum. #VotaCampaign

• Candidates for Place 1 have started speaking. #VotaCampaign Chris Riley, Josiah Ingalls & Norman Jacobson.

• Community Q: what will they do w Pure Casting Foundry for community safety? #VotaCampaign
• A1: Ingalls: council needs to relocate it. Stop planning, using outside contractors. Make decisions and do.
• A1: Riley: I have worked on this & we are working on it; need deal where priv owner agrees it’s a benefit to them to move. #VotaCampaign

Audience at Candidates' Forum

Audience at Candidates' Forum

• Q2: many enviro hazards in neighborhood. Will you ensure to get 28 acres be transformed into preserves in east Austin? #VotaCampaign
• A2: Jacobson: not familiar w this, but is creative and can come up w a solution. #VotaCampaign
• A2: Ingalls: this isn’t a priority for council, rather council gives $ to biz like Formula 1 & Google. Wants this a properly. #VotaCampaign
• A2: Riley: not sure what making it a preserve requires, but need to engage public in this process. And explore possibilities. #VotaCampaign

• Q3: in 07 bond money was granted for affordable housing. Do you support more bond money? #VotaCampaign
• A3: Ingalls: new money needed, but need low income and affordable housing. #VotaCampaign
• A3: Riley: yes, I support more bond money. Community needs to discuss the priorities. #VotaCampaign

• Q4: will you champion causes of minority issues? Will you push for single member districts? #VotaCampaign
• A4: Riley: we are all reps for the whole city. I believe single member districts create better representation. #VotaCampaign
• A4: Ingalls: have been working for single member districts but need strong mayoral gov’t not strong city manager gov’t. #VotaCampaign
• A4: Jacobson: in favor of single member districts; believe mayor should be selected by the council. #VotaCampaign

• Candidates for Place 4 take the stage. Laura Morrison and Eric Rangel. #VotaCampaign

• Community Q: what will they do w Pure Casting Foundry for community safety? #VotaCampaign
• A1: Rangel: prob is council doesn’t live in east Austin, but we need to find solution. #VotaCampaign
• A1: Morrison: public health imp to me; no success yet, looking at federal money – value of biz there is too expensive. #VotaCampaign

• Q2: many enviro hazards in neighborhood. Will you ensure to get 28 acres be transformed into preserves in east Austin? #VotaCampaign
• A2: Rangel: need to stop suburban sprawl to save environment. Build up urban areas to accomplish this. #VotaCampaign
• A2: Morrison: committed to making it a preserve. It’s a council not staff decision. #VotaCampaign

Candidates respond to community questions.

Candidates respond to community questions.

• Q4: will you champion causes of minority issues? Will you push for single member districts? #VotaCampaign”
• A4: Rangel: in favor of single member districts; needs to be 8 not 6 – it’s more efficient. #VotaCampaign
• A4: Morrison: believer in single member districts; needs to be on 2012 ballot; work w community input. #VotaCampaign

• Q3: in 07 bond money was granted for affordable housing. Do you support more bond money? #VotaCampaign
• A3: Morrison: no one expected ’07 $ to solve the prob; support more $; there are other tools such as density bonuses to use. #VotaCampaign
• A3: Rangel: affordable housing is doable, doesn’t need to be in one part of town; need to be cost effective for citz. #VotaCampaign

• Candidates for Place 3 are taking the stage. Kris Bailey, Max Nofziger, Randi Shade & Kathie Tovo #VotaCampaign

• Q1: what will they do w Pure Casting Foundry for community safety? #VotaCampaign
• A1: Bailey: tricky, it’s $$, why aren’t we boycotting those that do biz w those harming community? Gov’t moves too slow. #VotaCampaign
• A1: Shade: complicated prob, feel bad it hasn’t been taken care of. Need to find land swap opty #VotaCampaign
• A1: Tovo: committed to working w community to get it out of neighborhood; need stronger leadership. #VotaCampaign

• Q2: many enviro hazards in neighborhood. Will you ensure to get 28 acres be transformed into preserves in east Austin? #VotaCampaign

• A2: Tovo, Shade: want the preserve. Nofziger: there is money to spend to get it done. Let’s use it. #VotaCampaign
• A2: Bailey: prob is council Relationship w developers. Therefore no $ fir parks.

About The East Austin Voter Mobilization Initiative:
The East Austin Voter Mobilization Initiative (EAVMI) is a coalition, spearheaded by Southwest Key Program’s East Austin VOTA Campaign, that includes PODER, LULAC District 12, Austin NAACP, Austin Center For Peace & Justice, Austin Immigrants Rights Coalition, Austin, and Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance.

~ Daniel Llanes, Guest Contributor and Narissa Johnson, External Communications Manager

May 12, 2011 at 11:29 am Leave a comment

Pleas for Support of Charter Schools Not Just in Texas, But Nationwide

In Washington, DC elected officials are discussing public charter schools in similar terms as here in Texas. In a blog post on the Congressional paper The Hill’s blog (which I haven’t read in a solid six years or more), Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) pens an entry (“Why charter schools deserve our support”) that echos what we have been saying about the importance of public charter schools.

By opening with the sentence: “Many students get trapped in failing schools and need a way out and public charter schools offer that opportunity, ” Rep. McKeon gets to the heart of why we as communities, states and the country need to support public charter schools. Our children are facing increasingly high challenges and competition in today’s economic environment. The traditional public school system is not always prepared to provide the best opportunity to our children so they can remain competitive and reach their fullest potential.

The purpose of the public charter school system is to offer “These laboratories of learning… and the common denominator between them all is a staunch desire for local hands-on control by parents and teachers.” Read Rep. McKeon’s piece and let us know whether you feel that public charter schools should be given more opportunity to discover new ways to educate our children and if you feel there is a place for traditional public schools and public charter schools to work together.

The Hill: “Why charter schools deserve our support”  By Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.)

~ Narissa Johnson
External Communications Manager

May 11, 2011 at 9:42 am Leave a comment

AISD Takes Lessons from Public Charters’ Playbook

In this weekend’s Austin-American Statesman, “Austin school district implements sweeping changes to boost performance at struggling schools” (by Melissa B. Taboada) outlines the changes the Austin Independent School District (AISD) is making to some of the consistently low-performing schools in East Austin. The changes are a result of accepting that lessons learned from public charter schools can be implemented to benefit traditional public schools. Among those changes are: increased instruction time, daily tutoring requirements, longer school days, Saturday class requirements, and building in the expectation that students will be college bound.

These changes that AISD is planning to implement sound remarkably like what is offered at (credited) KIPP and East Austin College Prep Academy. However, one thing that is not addressed in the article about AISD’s plan are the wrap-around services that support not only the child IN school, but their family as well.

Acknowledging that students from minority and low-income neighborhoods have different needs (which frankly I haven’t heard acknowledged but only alluded to) is a step in the right direction. But until programs are put into place that also support the neighborhood and whole families living in East Austin communities, we continue to short-change the children in these neighborhoods. These are the kinds of programs that the East Austin Children’s Promise includes and the work the public charter school, East Austin College Prep, is already implementing.

Learn more about what East Austin Children’s Promise is to the families in East Austin.

~Narissa Johnson
External Communications Manager

May 9, 2011 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

East Austin Prep Academy Participates in Rally at the TX Capitol

Parents and public charter school representatives from across the state came together on May 4 to rally in support of legistlature that would support public charter schools in Texas. This 82nd Legislature is faced with bills that will:

  • lift a state imposed cap on new public charter schools and allow for expansion of programs,
  • allow charters to access state bonds for construction of schools, and
  • support dropout recovery public charter schools.

Thank you to Texas Charter School Association for their support this Lege session!

May 6, 2011 at 2:05 pm Leave a comment

Celebrate East Austin Prep’s Globaloria Game Designers!

Globaloria Games

This year, 200 students created web games to solve engineering problems and social issues in the East Austin College Prep Globaloria Lab. By researching, designing and programming these web games, students learn about the application of math and science concepts to social issues.

Join us at the 2nd Annual Globey Awards and Globaloria Open House to celebrate these students and their accomplishments!

Thursday, June 2, 2011 at the East Austin College Prep Academy in the Community Room (6002 Jain Lane, Austin, TX 78721).

5:30–6:00 – Globey Awards Presentation

Grand Prize Winners:

  • 7th Grade Game
  • 6th Grade Mini Game (Math)
  • 6th Grade Mini Game (Social Issue)

Individual Awards:

  • Best Blogger
  • Best Wiki Master
  • Best Original Artwork
  • Best Programmer
  • Best Leader
  • Most Improved

6:00 – 7:00 – Globaloria Open House: Come see the Globaloria Lab, learn more about the program and see the winning Games!

Please RSVP to or 512-350-2815 by May 20.

May 4, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Early Voting Started!

Here at Southwest Key’s Centro de Familia we are once again an Early Voting site. Join us on Friday, May 6th – Polls open from 2 – 7pm. If you are a registered voter in Travis County you are eligible to vote at our location that day.

Where: Southwest Key’s Centro de Familia (6002 Jain Lane, Austin, TX 78721) Community Room

For other Early Voting locations or more information, call the Travis County Clerk’s Office 238 – VOTE (8683) or visit:
Election Day is Saturday, May 14, 2011

For more information, contact Valerie Joiner at or 512-462-2181

May 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

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