Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion shows how busi­ness makes dif­fer­ence in schools

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - HEINZ AESCHBACH, AUSTIN BOB ARRONA, BEE CAVE

Austin In­de­pen­dent School District serves 83,591 stu­dents and op­er­ates 130 schools. To prop­erly ed­u­cate and en­sure that stu­dents are ca­reer- and col­lege-ready, it takes the ded­i­cated ef­forts of more than 6,000 teach­ers, 12,000 staff, as well as sup­port from fam­i­lies and our lo­cal com­mu­nity. But that’s still not enough.

With a chang­ing econ­omy, short­falls in fund­ing, and in­creased com­pet­i­tive­ness of col­lege ad­mis­sions across Texas and Amer­ica, more help is needed, es­pe­cially for dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents. This is where the busi­ness com­mu­nity can and should make a dif­fer­ence.

A shining ex­am­ple of this can be found in Austin Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion. In 2004, the Austin Cham­ber of Com­merce and Austin ISD formed this or­ga­ni­za­tion to im­prove stu­dent col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness, as well as ex­pand sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, engi­neer­ing and math (STEM) op­por­tu­ni­ties through com­mu­nity en­gage­ment. Over the last 13 years, the ef­fort has played a cru­cial role in Austin’s schools and com­mu­ni­ties.

Since its cre­ation, Austin Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion has been laser-fo­cused on un­der-re­sourced com­mu­ni­ties and pre­dom­i­nantly eco­nom­i­cally dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents. Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion of­fers both di­rect stu­dent sup­port and cam­puswide sup­port within Austin ISD to these stu­dent pop­u­la­tions.

By of­fer­ing class­room coach­ing, men­tor­ing, ca­reer con­ver­sa­tions and col­lege readi­ness, Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion in­flu­enced the aca­demic suc­cess of over 1,000 stu­dents dur­ing the 2016-17 aca­demic cal­en­dar. Many folks in the com­mu­nity may not be aware that this is due in large part to the more than 30,000 vol­un­teer hours, val­ued at $785,000, from en­gaged com­mu­nity mem­bers who do­nate their time for the bet­ter­ment of our stu­dents.

Through­out its his­tory, Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion has also worked to keep schools safe by con­duct­ing 35,000 crim­i­nal back­ground checks on their vol­un­teers, in­creas­ing the col­lege readi­ness of 1,900 stu­dents, train­ing and serv­ing over 14,000 class­room coaches and men­tors, and tu­tor­ing or men­tor­ing more than 28,000 stu­dents. What does all this mean? For stu­dents like Sadira Alvarado, it means con­fi­dence to go on to col­lege. Dur­ing her time as a stu­dent at Stephen F. Austin High School, Alvarado often doubted if she would even make it to col­lege. Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion changed all that. When Alvarado joined the or­ga­ni­za­tion, she be­came more con­fi­dent in her abil­ity to find schol­ar­ships and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance that would make col­lege more af­ford­able.

It also means more stu­dents like Alvarado get the ex­tra at­ten­tion they need to be suc­cess­ful stu­dents and be­come ready for col­lege. With­out Austin Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion, these stu­dents would likely have fallen through the cracks re­sult­ing in long-term set­backs dur­ing their aca­demic ca­reers.

Through dif­fer­ent pro­grams, in­clud­ing tu­tor­ing, as­sis­tance with schol­ar­ship es­says, and gen­eral coun­sel­ing from her Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion ad­vo­cate, Alvarado en­rolled in Texas State Univer­sity. She be­lieves strongly in Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion and cred­its the or­ga­ni­za­tion with helping her achieve her aca­demic goals. She be­lieves that stu­dents who are un­sure about at­tend­ing col­lege im­me­di­ately af­ter high school should sign up to work with Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion.

Over the next three years, Austin Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion will broaden its scope by fo­cus­ing on sev­eral key goals in­clud­ing build­ing pro­grams fo­cused on STEM, as well as col­lege and ca­reer readi­ness. In­vest­ments from the Austin Cham­ber, Austin ISD, Michael and Su­san Dell Foun­da­tion, In­tel, KDK-Har­man Foun­da­tion and dozens of other gen­er­ous bene­fac­tors across our city will help Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion meet its goals and help our stu­dents achieve suc­cess.

Alvarado is just one of hun­dreds of stu­dents that have been pos­i­tively af­fected by the work Part­ners in Ed­u­ca­tion does in Austin. In this fast­paced me­dia world, these sto­ries can eas­ily be over­looked, though they need to be told to en­cour­age even more ed­u­ca­tional sup­port for our com­mu­ni­ties.

Re: March 3 ar­ti­cle, “Pared­down school choice bill filed by House Repub­li­can.”

The Repub­li­cans’ stealth agenda is to con­stantly de­mo­nize teach­ers and blame ad­min­is­tra­tors for per­for­mance “fail­ures” that are the di­rect re­sult of re­lent­less de­fund­ing. They starve the dog and then pun­ish it for its poor health.

Repub­li­cans’ in­tent is to grad­u­ally squeeze out low-in­come voucher par­tic­i­pants by re­duc­ing al­lot­ments af­ter they lure them into ap­ply­ing for vouch­ers in the first place. Then in the sub­se­quent years, they seg­re­gate the low-in­come, mi­nor­ity and spe­cial-needs kids into re­duced fund­ing pools. The kids from higher-in­come, mostly white fam­i­lies will grav­i­tate to­ward char­ter, pri­vate, re­li­gious or cor­po­rate-owned schools. These schools are propped up by more gen­er­ous voucher dol­lars, have won­der­ful re­sources and vir­tu­ally no ac­count­abil­ity stan­dards.

Mean­while, kids in pub­lic schools have to strug­gle

Re: March 15 ar­ti­cle, “Planned Par­ent­hood subs fal­ter­ing in Texas trial run.” Dear Repub­li­cans: Women are not rats. Stop ex­per­i­ment­ing with women’s health care. You have with­drawn the right of Planned Par­ent­hood to serve many poor women — and the ma­ter­nal death rate has dou­bled. The in­creased deaths are pri­mar­ily among poor women, whom you tar­geted. We can as­sume that uter­ine-cer­vi­cal and breast can­cer deaths also are in­creas­ing. And among the poor, in­fant deaths are in­ex­cus­ably high.

Though men largely con­trol ac­cess to sex ed­u­ca­tion and contraception, women are not to dis­cuss cat­a­strophic preg­nan­cies and health care pro­fes­sion­als are to ig­nore pro­fes­sional ethics.

Law­mak­ers — think again. You are killing women and in­fants due to some con­stituents’ per­verted “be­liefs.”

Re: March 14 ar­ti­cle, “CBO: 24M would lose health in­sur­ance.”

The head­line shows that fact-check­ing is a lost art and the “Austin Amer­i­can-Demo­crat” is in the run­ning for the worst news­pa­per in Amer­ica. The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has been wrong ev­ery time on all its es­ti­mates. But since this was from the Wash­ing­ton Post, pur­veyor of halftruths, you thought it de­served front-page cov­er­age to fire up all the cry­ba­bies who still can­not come to grips with the out­come of the elec­tion.

The last time I checked, Amer­ica was a democ­racy. We can’t change the elec­tion re­sults — but we can rally as Amer­i­cans and give the pres­i­dent a chance to keep his prom­ises and see where it goes.

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN 2014

Steve Wil­son, cu­ra­tor of film at UT’s Harry Ran­som Cen­ter, stands in a 2014 ex­hi­bi­tion about “Gone With the Wind,” fea­tur­ing the green cur­tain dress worn by Vivien Leigh.

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