Archive for June, 2011

Progress Report: New Social Enterprise Building

The new Social Enterprises building, which has been under construction since October 2010, promises to be a spacious and welcome addition to the Southwest Key National Headquarters.  Funding for the 14,000 square foot building came from a $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.  On July 25, 2011, the building will be completed and ready for employees to move in.

The administrative departments of the Southwest Key’s various for-profit subsidiaries will be housed in the new building.  These social enterprises include Southwest Key Maintenance, Green Energy, Café del Sol, and Workforce Development, which offer many and varied employment opportunities to the East Austin community.   While these ventures face the common struggles of starting and maintaining a new business in an uncertain economy, Southwest Key’s social enterprises continue to bolster the East Austin community through their services and employment opportunities.  Learn more about Southwest Key’s Social Enterprises.

In addition to housing the social enterprise departments, the new building will also provide a large boardroom and common room.  The common room is a multi-purpose meeting room that can be used for candidate forums, community events, etc., and is available for rent to community members for a reasonable rate.

A separate classroom building is also being constructed at the Southwest Key Headquarters and will contain two classrooms.  These classrooms will be used by the East Austin College Preparatory Academy for the next couple of years, and will later be used for Southwest Key’s Adult Education programs.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

June 30, 2011 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

Congratulations to San Antonio Community Based Programs!

Most people look forward to summer for relaxation, pool time, and a much-needed vacation.  But for youths participating in the Community Based Programs in San Antonio, there’s a lot more at stake this summer: $10,000 and the chance to make a real impact on their community.

On June 9th, Southwest Key’s San Antonio Community Based Programs was selected as one of 10 semifinalists to receive a $1000 grant from Silver and Black Give Back (formerly the Spurs Foundation) for their summer Team Up Challenge!

The summer Team Up Challenge is a competition between different community service projects in San Antonio that address one of the following categories: arts & culture, education, environment, health & wellness, and uniformed services.  Beginning in May, each of the 10 semifinalist groups will receive support throughout the summer from the San Antonio Silver Stars (SA’s WNBA team) with tickets to games, player appearances, and other prizes.  At the end of the competition in August, three of the ten semifinalists will be named Champions and receive a $10,000 grant for the work that they have done in the community.

The San Antonio Community Based Programs project has kids from the Ayres House, a Texas Youth Commission halfway house, assisting seniors who are in need of lawn care but are unable to afford it or tend to their lawns themselves.  In addition, they will be making greeting cards for the seniors throughout the summer.  These cards will be delivered along with daily meals to those seniors who are disabled and most in need of assistance.

At the end of the summer, the youths will share their stories about the impact of the project and will be treated to a pizza party!  If their project is chosen as one of the $10,000 Champions, they plan to use the money to continue their service to the elderly community.  The money would be utilized to provide fans in the summer and heaters in the winter, as well as food baskets during the holidays.  They would also be able to provide small home maintenance repairs such as painting or fixing broken windows.

Good luck to the San Antonio team on their project and their shot at $10,000!

– Kelle Kampa
Communicati0ns Intern

June 27, 2011 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

Making Healthy Life Changes with Agrilife

The East Austin Children’s Promise Adult Education Program will begin a seven-week session on June 29th called Agrilife, which focuses on nutrition, exercise, and health.   The classes, held once a week for seven weeks, will give participants the opportunity to learn about preparing nutritious foods, how to incorporate exercise into their daily lives, and how to teach what they’ve learned to their families.

Each 90-minute session of the Agrilife program includes lecture, class discussion, group activities, physical activity, and a cooking demonstration.  In addition, participants are encouraged to participate in a walking program on their own time.  To incentivize participation and incorporation of Agrilife’s lessons into their daily lives, there will be small prizes distributed throughout the series, including a special prize for the participants that have perfect attendance during the seven weeks.  In order to measure the effectiveness of the program, a 24-hour food recall and food survey is administered at the first and last class.  The 24-hour food recall asks participants to recount everything they have eaten in the past 24 hours, and the food survey will determine what types of food choices the participants are making on a regular basis.  This way, administrators of the program can see how the participants’ nutritional habits have changed over the course of the program.

With regards to nutrition, particular importance is placed on proper portion sizes, getting enough fruits and vegetables, and lowering dietary levels of sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugar.   The exercise component stresses the benefits of walking, increasing daily physical activity levels, and engaging the entire family in fun physical activities.

The Agrilife program is a Texas extension of the federally funded Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), which has been in operation since 1969.  The benefits of implementing such programs are significant.  National studies have shown that for every $1 spent on EFNEP, $10 were estimated to be saved in health care costs and $2 saved in food costs by participants.  For Travis County, this amounts to more than $3.2 million in estimated health care costs savings and nearly $650,000 savings in food costs.

For more information, please contact Daniel Hinojosa –

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

June 23, 2011 at 10:13 am 2 comments

Class is Now in Session: Diabetes Awareness

The East Austin Children’s Promise Adult Education Program kicks off the summer with a Diabetes Awareness Workshop on Saturday, June 25th.  This one-day workshop will focus on understanding diabetes with healthy lifestyle advice that is geared towards diabetes prevention.   A physician will be speaking to the class in an informal lecture session encouraging questions and open dialogue about diabetes and healthy living.

In addition, a chef will give a presentation on healthy food options and a cooking demonstration of different types of meals, which the attendees can sample.   One of the larger goals of this session is for students to acquire a better understanding of healthy cooking alternatives that can benefit their health and that of their families.

Since the target audience for this workshop is largely Hispanic residents of the East Austin Johnston/Govalle community, the session will be conducted in Spanish.  Although the Diabetes Awareness Workshop currently consists of a one-day curriculum, Southwest Key looks to expand the program to cover more during the following weeks, based on the interest in the community and the success of the pilot program.

For more information, please contact Daniel Hinojosa –

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

June 21, 2011 at 9:25 am Leave a comment

Summer Enrichment Program for East Austin Students

The Boys & Girls Club of Austin is partnering up with Southwest Key’s East Austin Children’s Promise to offer an innovative and enriching summer camp for kids, funded by the KDK Harman Foundation.  While the camp has an academic focus, it will not have the structure of a normal school day.  Rather, the programming rotates throughout the day between robotics, outdoor recreation, time in the computer lab, arts and crafts, and various special events and field trips.  From 8:30AM to 5:30 PM for eight weeks in the summer (June 6 – July 29), enrolled students will spend their days learning about a broad range of topics and creating projects that allow them to use their imagination and brain power.  The goal of the camp is to get students excited about science by showing them all the ways in which science is immersed in their lives, inside the classroom and out.

The summer program incorporates daily elements of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programming.  STEM is a national education coalition comprised of over 500 businesses, professional, and education organizations that advocates for increased focus on math- and science-related subjects in the classroom.  The goal of the coalition is to encourage students to pursue careers in related fields in order to keep the U.S. at the forefront of global technological innovation.  According to their website, one of STEM’s broader policies is to maintain “a strong emphasis in learning environments on hands-on, experiential, inquiry-based and learner-centered student experiences and activities, including engineering design processes.”   Learn more about STEM.

In addition to STEM, the summer program will also include Xenogia (zen-oh-hee-uh), a course that focuses on using the spoken word as a means to ending gang violence among youths, which is funded by the National Council for Crime and Delinquency.  After daily installments of Xenogia programming over the course of the summer, the students conclude their experience with a performance of their own creative material.

Various outings are also scheduled for the kids throughout the summer, such as a Girl Scouts-sponsored trip to IBM, where girls spend the day observing and learning from experienced engineers.   Weekly field trips, guest speakers, and student projects will be centered around that week’s STEM theme (engineering, chemistry, etc.).

Research has shown that how kids spend their summers plays a large role in academic performance.  Lower income students oftentimes lack the enriching and intellectually stimulating summer experiences of their higher income peers.  Activities like summer camps, travel, and summer school keep kids’ brains active so the things they learned during the school year do not stagnate over the long summer months.  Because lower income students often do not have the same opportunities for summer involvement, their academic performance during the following school year suffers.  The summer program being offered by the Southwest Key Boys & Girls Club seeks to address this issue by giving kids a fun and intellectually rewarding way to spend their summer.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

June 16, 2011 at 9:15 am Leave a comment

Awards Season at East Austin College Prep

How better to end a year of hard work in school than with awards, a showcase, and of course, free snacks?  Last week, lucky students at East Austin College Prep got to do just that!

On Thursday, June 2nd, East Austin College Prep held their second annual Globey Awards Ceremony.  The ceremony recognized the student winners of various awards related to their achievement in the Globaloria program such as “Best Blogger,” “Best Wiki Master,” “Best Game,” and “Best Programmer.”

Globaloria is an innovative program created by the World Wide Workshop and is supported at East Austin College Prep by Southwest Key Programs and the AMD Foundation.   Globaloria provides a social network for learning through an online program that teaches students to create their own computer games, wikis, and blogs.  Students learn the basics and applications of these digital innovations by experiencing their creation first hand, or in other words, learning by doing.

In the 2010-2011 school year, 200 sixth and seventh graders at East Austin College Prep took daily Globaloria lessons to create web games that focused on a wide variety of topics.  From math and science concepts to tackling social issues such as poverty, homelessness, obesity, climate change, and recycling, the Globaloria game program allowed students to find a creative way to teach themselves and others.  Play some of the 2011 Globey-winning games!

Through the Globaloria curriculum, students learn to research, design, program, and present their ideas digitally.  As the world becomes increasingly more digitized, students at East Austin College Prep are getting a head start on their peers by learning how to successfully create programs and interact on the web.  The skills they learn here will prepare them for high school, college, and their careers beyond.

– Kelle Kampa
Communications Intern

June 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Summer Break is Here…

In a recent post Schools out — now what? on The GreatSchools Blog, author Connie Matthiessen raises questions about what really happens as a result of children having a full two and a half months off of school. The tradition of taking the summer off started when kids were needed as additional labor on farms; now this is not how the majority of kids spend their summers. And so it presents families with the challenge of finding something for their kids to do during the summer – for fear of how they may spend their time if not participating in some organized activity.  This morning, I also learned of a radio campaign sharing with families the importance of being especially engaged in their kids’ lives now that school was out for the summer. The idea being that through parent engagement during the summer kids will be safe from drugs, gangs and other kinds of trouble. In addition, Matthiessen shares results from a study that shows all students lose academic skills as a result of the break; but kids from low-income families have an even harder time because of a lack of access to summer learning opportunities.

It occurred to me that the question of whether or not your kids go to camp, take enrichment classes or if you can take time from work to spend time with them during the summer are all the questions of people who have means. But if your family is living paycheck to paycheck, you aren’t in a position to consider which summer camp to send your kids to, you don’t have access to pricey enrichment classes, and you can’t afford to take time off work to spend the summer days with your kids. What is the solution for families that lack the kinds of resources that allow us to ensure our kids have organized activities that will keep them out of trouble or continuing education opportunities that keep them from sliding backwards in their education?

But does a longer school year, or year-round school, rob children of the opportunity to experience the world outside their school? Does it eliminate the opportunity for extended visits with family, exploring new places, learning about real-world experiences?

At East Austin College Prep, a summer institute is offered to any of the kids working with The East Austin Children’s Promise programs. It is eight weeks of different classes that keep the kids engaged and give them real world experiences. With the first day of classes at the end of August, the kids and their families still have plenty of time to visit family and friends and enjoy the summer break as well!

– Narissa Johnson
External Communications Manager

June 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm Leave a comment

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