Message From Richard: Driving Change Throughout Austin Together

We are very excited to be working with the students, families and staff at Harris Early College Prep Elementary. This fall we anticipate engaging at least 50 Harris Bulldogs in high-quality learning and enrichment provided by Austin Film Society, Creative Action, and kidsActing Foundation.

This marks the start of the Foundation’s plan to expand our impact based on what we have learned and accomplished with our pilot partnership at Pecan Springs College Prep Elementary.

Our ability to serve more children depends on many factors, not the least of which is your financial support and investment in us. To say that our work would not be possible without you is an understatement. But we also need the cooperation, support and engagement of other community members.

For instance, we need strong, focused and determined education leadership, such as we have in Austin Independent School District (AISD) Superintendent Paul Cruz. The resources he and his team contribute to our afterschool and summer learning and enrichment creates an adequate and conducive environment to engage children in exceptional learning and life experiences.  In addition, the willingness of Principal Elaine McKinney at Pecan Springs and Principal Monica Martinez at Harris to coordinate efforts with us ensures children receive continuous academic support before and after the bell.

We also need engaged families. Families are our constant teachers from birth through college. They help us realize our dreams and stay focused on achieving them. Recognizing the important roles families play in their children’s success, the Foundation host several family nights throughout the year. This past summer, 92 percent of the families enrolled in our summer learning and enrichment program attended at least one of these family nights.

Finally, we need strong support from our city’s leadership. Today we expect more from our students and graduates than ever before.  With ever-increasing academic expectations, it’s not surprising that schools struggle to squeeze everything—academics as well as social and emotional skills—into a seven-hour day.  Learning has to continue outside of school, and it is a community responsibility.  Unfortunately, students from underserved neighborhoods, who typically have the greatest need for additional enrichment, are least likely to get it.

High-quality afterschool and summer programs are the most effective and efficient public policy to give children in underserved neighborhoods learning and enrichment experiences beyond the school day. A decade of research and studies indicate that young people who regularly participate in quality afterschool and summer programs do better in school, connect with peers and caring adults, and are healthy and well.

A growing number of cities are recognizing the benefits. In Nashville, for example, the community worked with the mayor and city council to invest $5.5 million in new funding for high-quality afterschool and summer learning and enrichment over the past six years. As a result, more than 5,000 high-need middle and high school students experienced invaluable opportunities after school and during the summer.

Austin can do it, too. We must unite around our shared mission and coordinate and maximize our resources. The Andy Roddick Foundation believes together we can drive improvements throughout Austin.