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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

Horace Mann’s Support of Austin ISD

logo_horace_mannAccording to a news release May 29, the Horace Mann Companies donated more than $18,500 to complete 29 DonorsChoose.org project within Austin ISD.

Horace Mann is one of APIE and AISD’s returning sponsors for Salute and Celebrate, events held each spring to honor district volunteers, teachers, and administrators. We are incredibly grateful for their support year after year through financial sponsorship and social media promotion. In addition, we greatly appreciate this tremendous generosity to one of our founding partners, AISD.

As a result, 22 teachers at 13 Austin schools will receive items like yoga balls, science kits, books, an iPad, a listening center, an inflatable water park, a 3D printer, microscopes and other items…

“This donation allows all of these teachers to start the next school year with new supplies in the classroom to help their students excel, says local Horace Mann agent Jessica Gamez. “I’ve seen what a difference an iPad, science kits or a printer can make in a classroom, and to see all of these teachers have their projects completed is really something special.”

Horace Mann is the largest national multiline insurance company focusing on educators’ financial needs. For more info, visit horacemann.com

DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit website where public school teachers can describe educational project for their students and donors can choose project to support. 

 

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.

Volunteer Spotlight: Nick Bradley

Nick Bradley is an Aerospace Engineering Doctoral student at UT Austin. During his three years volunteering with APIE, he has been an 8th grade Math Coach for nine students and is currently a Classroom Coach at Webb Middle School.Nick Bradley

While looking for ways to positively engage with the Austin community, Nick Bradley found an Austin Partners In Education posting for math coaches in the service announcements at his church. “Math coaching sounded like just the right fit,” Bradley says.

In the final year of his Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, Bradley is a dedicated individual who believes that good comprehension and problem-solving skills are the keys to pursuing higher education. For this reason, Bradley has been an APIE volunteer for three years and has worked with nine students all over Austin, encouraging them to work hard every day.

Bradley believes that to be a classroom coach, one must be dedicated to seeing real change and understanding occur in students’ academic and personal lives, no matter how long it may take. “Individual rapport with each student is vital to the methodology of APIE coaching, and coaches must be willing to get to know the students on a personal level,” Bradley says.

But there are a lot of challenges that classroom coaches must learn to overcome.

Sometimes students will seem uninterested in and disengaged from the group. One student in particular has proved to be a challenge this year for Bradley. “The frustrating part is that I see that this student understands the concepts,” Bradley says. “It has been a struggle to keep trying to include the student without detracting attention and help from the others.”

For this reason, Bradley is constantly learning how to better accommodate each student’s individual needs as a learner. While the math is an important part of the learning program, Bradley believes that it is also important to engage personally with the students and find out how they are doing and what they are excited about. “The students really want someone to show that they care about them, not just another teacher who comes in and makes them do math problems.”

One thing that has really drawn Bradley to volunteering with APIE has been the positive interaction with the people in the organization. “The coordinators and other volunteers really care about each individual student, and I value organizations that incorporate one-on-one interactions with the beneficiaries,” says Bradley.

Bradley also credits his commitment with APIE to Sandy Bootz, his volunteer coordinator. “Sandy has been an outstanding coordinator for the three years I’ve worked with her,” Bradley says. “She is a gifted teacher and leader and cares individually very well for each volunteer.”

If he could leave his students with one message, Bradley would tell them that their teachers, parents, and volunteers genuinely care about them. “Your success in school and in life is more than just a hobby for all of us,” Bradley says. “You have a value beyond just being a student with a homework grade, and you are not made any less or more of a person by your performance in school.”

Bradley hopes that APIE can continue to have a positive impact all over Austin in the future by enabling students to be confident community leaders. “I think it is a core component of APIE’s methodology to have individual interactions with students that remind them that they are capable, that they have intrinsic value, and that they are cared for as people.”

Give the Gift of a Mentor

APIE Mentoring by the Numbers:

  • 972: Number of volunteers who have registered to mentor through APIE for the 2013-14 school year
  • $21,938: Value of volunteer service each WEEK if all 972 are placed, according to Independent Sector’s value of a volunteer hour in Texas
  • $125: APIE’s cost to support one mentor for one school year
  • 124: Number of Austin ISD schools where APIE mentors can serve
  • 4,000: Number of students still on the waiting list for a mentor in Austin ISD

Mentors can positively impact student attitudes and ambitions. Research has proved many benefits of mentoring, including:

  • keeping students in school
  • building students’ self-esteem
  • reducing likelihood of student involvement in risky behavior or use of illicit substances
  • decreasing depressive symptoms
  • improving student grades and academic attitudes
  • Developing students’ communications skills,
  • modeling and encouraging goal setting and taking steps to achieve those goals

To meet the needs of more students, we invite you to Give the Gift of a Mentor this December. Beginning with #GivingTuesday on December 3 and continuing through December 31, APIE’s goal is to raise $10,000 to broaden support for its Mentoring Program. Thanks to a generous $5,000 matching grant challenge from the Oppenheimer Foundation, a private Houston-based family foundation, your donation has the power to double its impact!

About #GivingTuesday

Give the Gift of a Mentor#GivingTuesday is a movement to create a national day of giving to kick off the giving season added to the calendar on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The second annual #GivingTuesday is on December 3, 2013. In the same way that retail stores take part in Black Friday, we want the giving community to come together for #GivingTuesday. (via)

Save the Date: Dec. 3, 2013

#GivingTuesdayWhat is #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday, in short, is a celebration of giving. It is a growing movement to celebrate and provide incentives to give. A first of its kind effort, #GivingTuesday will harness the collective power of a unique blend of partners — charities, families, businesses, and individuals — to transform how people think about, talk about, and participate in the giving season.

The second annual #GivingTuesday is Dec. 3. Mark your calendars! Immediately following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday aims to inspire people worldwide to improve their communities by giving back to local charities and causes they support.

How did #GivingTuesday start?

New York’s 92nd Street Y was the catalyst for #GivingTuesday. The U.N. Foundation provided their strategic and communications expertise, and a team of advisors shaped #GivingTuesday’s strategy. Mashable, Facebook, Variety, Groupon, and the William Morris Agency gathered leaders in the social good world for influencer meetings across the United States. More than 2,500 charities, organizations, and corporations participated in the first #GivingTuesday on Nov. 27, 2012.

Organizations saw a marked increase in donations year on year, and the movement left 2.5 million social media impressions, including those by the White House, the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Gates.

APIE Mentors

Positive Role Models! Heroes! Self-esteem boosters! BFF’s!

These are just a few ways to describe the APIE mentors who work with students throughout Austin ISD.

Unlike the classroom coaching programs at APIE, mentors serve in a non-academic volunteer role. They meet with students during their lunch period and engage in activities such as playing games, drawing, reading, and sharing stories, but primarily engage in conversation. By consistently spending time with these children and listening to them, they build trust and serve as a confidante, problem solver, and sounding board. Mentoring a student can help build self-esteem, increase the likelihood of a child completing school and pursuing post-secondary education, decrease destructive behaviors, and boost academic potential.

APIE mentors meet with their students once a week, usually for 30 minutes at lunch time, throughout the school year. Many of our mentors continue to work with their student as they progress through school; some relationships began as early as 2nd grade and continued through the student’s senior year of high school. In 2012-13, approximately 770 APIE mentors served students in 118 AISD elementary, middle, and high schools. All mentors receive a background check and training. So far in 2013-14, a record 970 volunteers have signed up to mentor through APIE!

School Connections Manager Dawn Lewis and Communication Interns Noah Schubert are working hard to produce a newsletter specifically for mentors. Look for this in the coming months for mentoring tips, best practices, and stories from your fellow mentors!