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5 Ways to Show Up for Students This Holiday Season

Think of someone who supported you growing up. They could be a teacher, next-door neighbor, parent, mentor, family friend, or coach. Whoever they are, when you look back on time in school, the people who showed up for you and believed in you stay with you long after a diploma.

That’s certainly the case for Drew Dubcak, a school counselor and mentoring volunteer. Her first-grade teacher, Ms. Stevenson, instilled in her a love of learning. “She made school fun and was a “you can be anything you want to be” kind of teacher,” Drew says. Fifteen years later, Drew returned to Ms. Stevenson’s classroom—this time to learn how to be an effective teacher. “She became a mentor to me, letting me go into her classroom,” Drew says. “I got to see what it’s like to be a strong role model for young kids and not only be a teacher but have a lasting impact.”

Drew believes that showing up is key to having impact on students, much like Ms. Stevenson has done for her. “You have to be someone who sticks around, because what impact are you going to have on a kid’s life if you take off?” Drew began mentoring Tabitha six years ago, which she was in the sixth grade. Now, she’s a junior in high school, beginning to plan for college. By consistently showing up, Drew has established a close bond with Tabitha and says she’s taught her a multitude of life lessons along the way. “You learn a lot from your mentee,” Drew says. “It’s more of a privilege to be in their life than it is for you to be theirs.”

At APIE, we’re privileged to impact the lives of hundreds of Austin ISD students each year through our programming, but none of this would be possible without YOU! Here are five you can show up for students:

  1. Donate to support our work. Consider giving in honor of an individual who showed up for you when you were a student. Even small gifts can add up quickly!
  2. Run and/or fundraise for our Austin Marathon team. Whether you’re a runner or not, we’d love to have you sign up for our team, spread the word, and fundraise with us! We’re happy to share tips and templates to help make this easier. When we hit certain numbers of runners and donations, we become eligible for more money as part of the Austin Gives Miles Charity Chaser program. To learn more, email our development coordinator, Rachel Thomson, at rthomson@austinpartners.org.
  3. Tell your family, friends, and network about APIE. Help increase awareness about the work we do by sharing our mission with those in your work and personal circles. We’re always looking to get connected with the Austin community, so we also appreciate introductions to potential supporters, volunteers, sponsors, or donors.
  4. Show support on social media. Liking, commenting, and sharing our posts on social media helps increase the number of people who see our posts and learn about our work.
  5. Volunteer with us. If you aren’t already, volunteering is a great way to turn your passion for students into meaningful action. Just an hour of your time each week makes a big difference for Austin students. Have questions or just want to learn more? Visit our website or email our volunteer recruitment coordinator, Ashley Yeaman, at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

This holiday season, we hope that you’ll show up for the causes and people you care about. Consider giving to APIE—whatever that looks like for you—in honor of the people who have showed up for you. We also encourage you to share with us on social media your person and how they impacted you. Tag us @austinpartners and use the hashtag #APIEshowsup. Together, we can ensure that caring individuals like Drew are showing up to support Austin students!

Post by: Rachel Thomson, Development Coordinator, and Ashley Yeaman, Communications & Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator

November 2019 Newsletter: A Slice of APIE

The weather is getting cooler and soon we’ll be kicking off the holiday season. We invite you to take a moment for a quick slice of APIE before you fill up on holiday treats next week! We are thankful for the continued support from our volunteers, donors, and friends. Keep reading for APIE updates, including the latest statistics from our annual program evaluation and how you can use your Target shopping to support Austin ISD students!


Program Updates 

Math Classroom Coaching (MCC)

For the 2019-20 school year, the MCC program is working with 6th and 7th graders at six middle schools, including Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Martin, Sadler Means YWLA, and Webb. We currently have almost 200 volunteers serving 669 Austin ISD students! We’re always looking for more volunteers, especially at the start of the new semester in January. To register to be a Math Classroom Coach, visit our website. For more information, email Ashley Yeaman at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

College Readiness

This year, APIE’s College Readiness program added Burnet Middle School to our roster, and we’re now serving students at 11 middle and high schools across the district. We have already worked with nearly 200 8th, 9th, and 10th graders, and we’re excited to support more students looking to participate in Early College High School and Career Launch/P-TECH programs. By participating in these programs, our students will have the opportunity to earn an Associate’s degree and industry certifications by the time they graduate high school!

Mentoring

We currently have more than 300 mentors serving students across Austin ISD, and we’re always working to increase that number—especially at the middle and high school levels. We have a high need for mentors at the following schools: Navarro and Northeast Early College high schools; Burnet, Mendez, and Lively middle schools; and Cowan, Pease, Metz, Sims, Norman, and Mills elementary schools. To register to be a mentor, visit our website. For more information, email Ashley Yeaman at ayeaman@austinpartners.org.

GEAR UP

The GEAR UP Program is in its third year, and our students are now 8th graders! We are serving the class of 2024 at 11 middle schools, including Bedichek, Burnet, Covington, Dobie, Lively, Gus Garcia YMLA, Martin, Mendez, Paredes, Sadler Means YWLA, and Webb. This year we have 21 tutors working across the GEAR UP campuses. There are more than 130 unique classes with a GEAR UP tutor. We look forward to increasing the support both teachers and students are receiving in class and small group settings, along with providing additional support at lunch and after school.


Back-To-School Happy Hour

Despite the dreary weather, we had a great turnout at our Back-To-School Happy Hour at Contigo on October 29, which was sponsored by Bumble Bizz! We hold appreciation events like these to recognize all of our incredible volunteers. Our work wouldn’t be possible without you! If you missed this event, stay tuned to your email and our social media accounts for updates on the next one.


Volunteer Spotlight | Drew Dubcak

Photo courtesy of Drew Dubcak. Used with permission from Tabitha’s family.

Drew began working with her mentee, Tabitha, six years ago as a 6th grader. This year, Tabitha is a junior, beginning to plan for what comes next after graduation. In this Q&A, Drew shares more about her mentoring experience and why people shouldn’t be hesitant to get involved.

 

Q: Who or what inspired you to start mentoring?

A: My dad has mentored for ten years and still mentors now. I thought that it would be really awesome to do that myself. Since I had time in college, I signed up and got partnered with Tabitha. I met her when she was 12, and she turns 18 in December.

Q: How has your experience mentoring been generally? How has it changed over the years?

A: It’s been a wonderful experience. Working with Tabitha has shown me that you don’t have to put in hours upon hours to see a great change. When I first met her, she didn’t really trust me. But since I’ve been around for so long, when I show up I get this big hug. It’s been great to see her grow up. The funny thing is that Tabitha did not want to grow up. So it’s been awesome to kind of work with her and be with her along the way. She was not happy to go to middle school, and then later she didn’t want to go to high school. I feel like being there to support her was a really good experience overall.

Q: What do you think are some of the benefits of working with the same mentee on a more long-term basis?

A: I think with mentoring, consistency is key. You have to be someone who sticks around and stays. I feel that the benefit of that is that you’re seeing the works of your labor materialize.

Q: Over the years working with Tabitha, are there any stories that stand out to you?

A: Well, I know the family and I know her mom now. It’s a trusting relationship. And so last year I took her and her sister to the Trail of Lights. They’ve lived in the Austin area their entire lives, but I got to go with them to do that for their first time. It was just the most exciting thing seeing them. They were 16 and 17 years old, and they were jumping around like kids seeing all these lights. It was beautiful.

Q: Does Tabitha have an idea of what she might like to do after she graduates high school?

A: We’re in the workings right now. We’re working on getting her volunteer experience and getting her ready to go to college. She loves history and astronomy, so if Tabitha had it her way, she would be a history and astronomy professor at a college somewhere.

Q: Why should someone volunteer to mentor?

A: It’s a blessing to get outside of yourself. I mean, it doesn’t take a lot of time to go and do this. I think a lot of people get stuck in the me, me, me. Being able to work with Tabithayes, I’ve helped her, but I’ve also helped myself because she’s taught me a multitude of life lessons, including don’t take things so seriously. She often asks me “Why are you on your phone al the time?” That’s my favorite question from her. “Why does it matter?” She’ll tell it like it is. You learn a lot from your mentee, and it’s more of a privilege to be in their lives than it is for you to be in theirs.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who was hesitant to mentor?

A: I think there might be hesitations around not knowing how to handle harder conversations, but there’s a lot of support with APIE. If I had needed it, I could have reached out. I got emails about trainings. I could reach out to Dawn [Lewis, APIE’s school connections manager] if I needed help. And support staff is key. There’s a lot of support, so you’re never alone. And if you don’t fit with a child, there is probably another child that you could work with as well.

Q: What lasting impact do you hope to have on Tabitha?

A: I hope that she grows up to be that strong, independent lady that I know she is on the inside. I want her to know that she can do whatever she wants on her own. We’ve been kind of instilling that she can do things on her own. She can be that awesome history and astronomer professor that she wants to be and go to college. She can travel on her own. She can do things on her own. She doesn’t have to have someone behind her. She doesn’t have to be scared. Hopefully she’ll grow up to be an independent lady that goes for what she wants.


Support APIE’s Marathon Team

APIE is one of very few nonprofits chosen as an official charity of the Austin Marathon and last year we raised over $30,000! Our 2020 goal of $30,000 can provide tutoring for 60 math students, mentoring for 120 students, or college readiness support for 30 students. This campaign is APIE’s major annual fundraiser and you can help by:

  1. Running: If you’re a runner and running the Austin Marathon, ½ Marathon, or 5K, please consider leveraging your athleticism and fundraise for APIE in support of your run! Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Run for Charity.”
  2. Joining Our Team: Not a runner? No problem! You can still join the team to fundraise and share APIE’s story with friends and family (there will be prizes involved!). We challenge you to post or send out just one email and see the generosity of your network. Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Run for Charity.” (This will make you a part of our team and able to fundraise, but you don’t have to run in the marathon.)
  3. Donating: If neither of the above options work for you, you can donate in honor of the students you show up for each week. You understand that APIE’s programs change lives, that APIE is a nonprofit, and that we can’t do this without community support. Visit our GoFundMe page here and click on “Support a Charity,” then select “Austin Partners in Education.”

If you have any questions, please email Rachel Thomson at rthomson@austinpartners.org.


Your Target shopping can help support APIE

We are honored and excited to announce that we have been chosen to participate in a special charitable giving campaign, sponsored and funded by Target. And you have the chance to help direct a portion of Target’s donation to us! A vote is earned each time you shop at Target, online and in store. Now through January 5, vote for us through the Target Circle program to help determine how Target’s donation will be divvied up. Click here to learn more about Target Circle.


Annual Evaluation Report, 2018-2019

We’re proud to share some of the findings from our Annual Evaluation Report! Last year, our Math Classroom Coaching program worked with middle school students. The 582 8th graders that participated in the program had significantly higher academic outcomes than a matched comparison group. In 2019, 79% of APIE 8th grade math students met the STAAR passing standard, compared with 61 % of the comparison group.

APIE’s College Readiness program supported 583 students in 8th through 12th grades. The 254 seniors who participated in the program performed better on the state’s college readiness assessment, the Texas Success Initiative Assessment, compared to a matched comparison group and district seniors. Fifty percent of APIE participants met college readiness criteria on both subjects on the assessment, followed by 21% of the matched comparison group.

The full report and executive summary are available on the APIE website, under the “Results” tab.


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Helping Aspiring College Graduates Succeed

By Ben Hirsch, College Readiness Advocate

As October begins and students are settling back into school, Austin Partners in Education’s college readiness advocates have already begun helping high school seniors get ready for a successful academic career in college.

Senior year is an incredibly tumultuous time: there are the foreseeable hurdles of college applications, financial aid forms, and impending adult responsibilities; the excitement about the upcoming life change or fear inspired by leaving home; and the Hollywood-sanctioned coming of age moments: homecoming, prom, and finally graduation. On some level, though, last on their mind is the question “am I academically prepared for college?” That is where APIE comes in.

This is the beginning of my third school year helping seniors solidify the skills they need to be a high achieving college student. Successful college students can write clearly and persuasively, comprehend the main ideas, philosophical underpinnings and supporting details in the texts they read, and have the math skills necessary to pursue careers they find compelling.

As a College Readiness Advocate, I have the exciting job of helping students identify areas in which they are struggling and give them extra one-on-one or small-group instruction to improve in those areas. At Akins High school I worked with Alyssa, who was struggling to demonstrate college-level ability in math. In her own words math had always been “the worst” for Alyssa.

Working with Alyssa made it apparent that her struggles were the result of some real deficiencies in mathematical knowledge. She was confounded by fractions, had difficulties working with negative numbers, and found graphs incredibly confusing. While a class full of peers and friends is not the ideal environment to reveal deep-seeded confusion, a small group can be more supportive. When one student expresses confusion, others often chime in, “yeah, I never got that either.”

When you don’t have a basic understanding of mathematical concepts, most high school math feels like a series of random steps that, if you don’t do perfectly, will lead you to the wrong answer. This obviously causes stress. But after we discovered the foundation concepts that Alyssa was missing, she was able to make great strides. By solidifying her ability to do things like reduce fractions and grapple with negative numbers, we enabled her to make sense of complex algebra like rational equations (which are essentially just extremely complex fractions) and quadratic functions (which cannot possibly be solved consistently if you do not understand the real significance of a numbers sign).

At the end of the year, Alyssa passed the mast section of the Texas Success Initiative Assessment and was able to avoid developmental courses at the University of Texas San Antonio. She was especially happy because these courses would have been in math.  Working with students like Alyssa is why I am excited to work with more aspiring college graduates. Many students have the desire and capacity to be successful and happy in college, but they need a little academic support before they head off on the next incredible step in their life of learning.

Looking for Another Way to Help APIE Support Austin ISD Students?

AmazonSmile for APIEAmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support APIE every time you shop with Amazon, at no cost to you.

Simply go to smile.amazon.com and sign in with your existing Amazon account information. From there, you can select APIE as the charitable organization to receive donations, and AmazonSmile will remember your selection each time you sign in!

The AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price to APIE!

APIE Debuts College Readiness Summer Program

By: Amanda Mills, College Readiness Advocate

When you hear the words “college readiness,” your mind most likely jumps to GPAs, SAT scores, and AP classes. Yet post-secondary education demands a variety of attributes outside of academic strength from its students.

Many students who might otherwise be successful in college lack the self-awareness, discipline, or other tools to make the most of their education. That is why, in June 2014, APIE implemented its first ever Summer College Readiness Program, which targets freshmen and sophomores and integrates academic instruction with personal exploration and development. At John H. Reagan Early College High School, seven college readiness advocates and 17 underclassmen spent three weeks together, thinking about and preparing for the rest of high school, the path to college, and the Texas Success Initiative (or TSI) exam.

The class, which took place Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., mixed APIE’s reading and writing curriculum with various team-building and enrichment activities. Students took an interest inventory, discovered their personal learning styles, and learned about the many resources available to them in their school and their community. As they became more knowledgeable about what they personally need to succeed and where they can turn for support, the students also became more confident in their abilities. A variety of exercises and fluid movement between individual activities and small- and large-group activities kept students engaged throughout class.

Of course, preparation for the TSI exam remains the core of the Summer College Readiness Program. Of the 14 students who were able to test on the last day of the program, six passed both sections and eight passed one section of the English Language Arts exam. The six who passed both portions will be able to take dual credit courses and earn college credit starting this fall, while in high school. In addition, more program alumni will take the TSI this fall when they return to class.

After taking the test on the last day of the summer session, the students visited The University of Texas campus. While it might have been difficult for the students to remember why they were at school when they could be at home watching a World Cup match, the field trip allowed the students to see why they had been working so hard.

Many students will begin college this fall without the tools and sources of support they need. Fortunately, Reagan High School students receive multiple opportunities to learn about and prepare for higher education. Reagan’s College and Career Center, Raider Enrichment Center, and community partnerships with organizations like APIE and Advise Texas provide Reagan students with opportunities to explore their futures. The new APIE Summer College Readiness Program is one such opportunity, encouraging students to take ownership of their futures as they prepare for college and the world beyond.

How to Relate and Talk to Your Students

Your 6th grade Reading Classroom Coaching coordinators, Chris and Hannah, put together a great handout for the April volunteer and mentor coffee talk. Check it out below!


Meet them at their level – put yourself in their shoes

  • Get to know their interests and hobbies.  Some students have a different background than yours; respecting it is key. Crossing cultural barriers takes effort, but if you want to bridge distances it is important to remain patient and keep an open mind.

Be objective

  • Don’t take student behavior personally
  • Be aware of your reaction/response to the students

Don’t be afraid to laugh and admit mistakes—have a sense of humor!

  • Model that it’s ok to make mistakes
  • Utilize your sense of humor

Respect/Trust

  • Remember that to get respect, you have to give it
  • Building trust takes time and patience

Listen

  • Try to listen more than you talk
  • Accept that a student’s feelings are valid

Be consistent

  • It is much harder to relate to your students if you miss multiple classes
  • Be consistent week to week with group guidelines for behavior
  • Being inconsistent will cause you to lose students’ respect and attention

We hope you’ll join APIE staff, your teachers, and fellow volunteers and mentors for the end-of-year happy hour TODAY at Contigo Austin!


 

Volunteer Spotlight: Andrea Martin

Andrea Martin started volunteering with APIE in the fall of 2013. As a new addition to APIE, she has already had a huge impact on her students. Andrea enjoys dedicating her time as a classroom coach helping improve the reading skills of middle school students in Austin.

APIE: What sparked your interest in volunteering with APIE?

AM: I used to teach middle school reading and missed working with middle school kids and heard about APIE through the Teach For America Alumni network here in Austin. APIE gives me the opportunity to support the teachers and administrators who are working hard every day to create an environment for excellent education in AISD.

APIE: What is something unique about APIE that stands it apart from other organizations?

AM: I feel like the volunteers are well-trained for what we are doing and we receive a lot of support. It’s also great consistency that for the most part we spend an hour every school week with the same kids. With this, we really get to see our kids through the course of the year.

APIE: You are currently working with 6th graders. What do you like about that age group?

AM: Middle school is a really tough time for everyone and if I, as a volunteer, can make the day a little easier, I want to be able to do that for my students.

APIE: What do you do for a living?

AM: I currently work in consulting for non-profits. Every day I am required to spend at least some time proofreading so I must be a careful and thorough reader for my work. For this reason, I am able to give my students clear examples of the importance of slowing down and paying close attention to what they are reading.

APIE: You have a Bachelors degree in English and Government and a Masters in Secondary Education.

AM: I point to my English degree with my students to tell them how important reading is to me. I hope they’ll learn to enjoy it and find it important in their own lives as well.

APIE: This is your first year as a volunteer. What has been the best part of the experience so far?

AM: As a citizen of Austin, I enjoy being able to learn and be a part of our city schools in at least this small way. It’s exciting to see the students learn something new or figure something out for themselves. We also have fun discussions during and after reading and it’s great to see them engage in our stories!

APIE: You seem to be making a lot of progress in the short amount of time you have volunteered.

AM: For me it’s valuable to be back in a classroom and having even a small opportunity to help my students grow as readers. I’ve greatly enjoyed working with my students. I love learning about them and their interests and also watching them have small successes in the classroom.

APIE: Have you faced any challenges as a volunteer?

AM: My biggest challenge has been with their attendance. It’s hard to see my students miss class, especially when I know they’re both already below grade-level readers.

APIE: What are some ways you feel volunteers can help with student attendance?

AM: Get to know your students and take an interest in their lives. Treat them like they’re adults and find ways to relate what they’re reading and learning about to their own lives.

APIE: APIE focuses on having small-group interactions between the volunteers and the students. Do you believe the students benefit from a personal learning environment?

AM: I’m so glad that I can give my students a little one-on-one time for reading practice. I know it’s valuable for them to be able to read aloud in such a low-pressure environment. As a volunteer, it is also great to be able to support the excellent work that tireless teachers like Mrs. Spear are doing every day with our students.

APIE: If you could tell your students one thing, what would it be?

AM: I’d just encourage them to find books and reading materials that interest them and read to them every day. That’s the only way I know they will become more successful readers and learners.

APIE: What do you hope APIE can achieve in the future?

AM: I hope APIE can continue to give more students the opportunities for classroom coaching sessions. I’m so glad programs like APIE exist to bring community members into our city’s schools and hope that even more members of the community will get involved with the program so they can have a better idea of the great work that is going on in our classrooms.