Keep­ing a prom­ise in East Austin

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION - sánchez is founder and Ceo of south­west Key.

Ihave read much re­cently in the pages of this news­pa­per about the ef­forts of the or­ga­ni­za­tion I lead, South­west Key Pro­grams, and the com­mu­nity we serve with re­gard to our Prom­ise Neigh­bor­hoods grant ap­pli­ca­tion, our East Austin Chil­dren’s Prom­ise and the Austin In­de­pen­dent School district’s de­ci­sion.

I’d like to take this op­por­tu­nity to clar­ify some of that re­port­ing and set the record straight.

Our East Austin Chil­dren’s Prom­ise builds from the ac­com­plish­ments and work we al­ready have started and, be­ing a grass­roots ef­fort, en­joys wide­spread sup­port. We en­joy the back­ing of more than 40 com­mu­nity and neigh­bor­hood as­so­ci­a­tions, non­prof­its, cor­po­ra­tions, arts and faith-based or­ga­ni­za­tions and elected of­fi­cials. This all can be found on our web­site, swkey.

org. Af­ter re­view­ing the list, I will leave it to the read­ers to de­cide whether our ef­fort “lacked broad com­mu­nity sup­port out­side of South­west Key’s bound­aries,” as re­ported by this news­pa­per.

Re­gard­ing AISD and its de­ci­sion not to sup­port our ef­forts, we feel it is un­fair for AISD to pick and choose which com­mu­nity to pri­or­i­tize when all of Austin’s stu­dents de­serve a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and at­ten­tion.

South­west Key Pro­grams moved its na­tional head­quar­ters into the heart of East Austin for a rea­son — the com­mu­nity here chal­lenged us to re­lo­cate. It asked us to help its kids get a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion and to help the par­ents find jobs.

The cen­ter we built, our El Cen­tro de Fa­milia, acts as a hub for our ef­forts. By work­ing with the com­mu­nity, we have in­creased voter reg­is­tra­tion, em­pow­ered res­i­dents through our East Austin Lead­er­ship Devel­op­ment Pro­gram and pro­vided op­por­tu­ni­ties for com­mu­nity di­a­logue by host­ing ju­di­cial can­di­date fo­rums and a speaker se­ries. Along with com­mit­ted part­ners, we op­er­ate many af­ter-school ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing a Boys and Girls Club, Austin Com­mu­nity Col­lege-spon­sored GED and English as a Sec­ond Lan­guage train­ing and sup­port cul­tural arts through the Latino Arts Preser­va­tion Pro­gram, Hip Hop for Youth and Xenogia Spo­ken Word pro­gram­ming.

In ad­di­tion, we opened a char­ter school serv­ing mid­dle school stu­dents, the East Austin Col­lege Prep Academy. Pre­lim­i­nary re­sults for the TAKS tests for our school in­di­cate it re­ceived an “ac­cept­able” rat­ing in its first year of op­er­a­tion and now has a wait list for the in­com­ing sixth grade. We are pro­vid­ing nu­mer­ous em­ploy­ment and train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal res­i­dents and are in­vest­ing an­other $3.7 mil­lion, on top of the $8 mil­lion al­ready in­vested, to build a so­cial en­ter­prise com­plex.

We are work­ing hard to change the dy­namic in East Austin, to give the chil­dren and fam­i­lies here the same op­por­tu­ni­ties to pros­per as the rest of Austin. I urge any­one read­ing this to come and visit our com­mu­nity cen­ter, school and Boys and Girls Club. See change for your­self, and help all of Austin by be­com­ing a part of the East Austin Chil­dren’s Prom­ise, a prom­ise we in­tend to keep.

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