Open Letter to the CommunityIn 2003, Southwest Key Programs promised the neighborhoods in East Austin the opportunity to participate in rebuilding their own community and access to a quality education to prepare their children for future success. When the Department of Education announced funding through the Promise Neighborhoods program, the East Austin Children’s Promise, led by Southwest Key Programs, submitted a strong proposal. A broad-based collaborative representing the Govalle/Johnston Terrace community and the larger Austin community backed the proposal. This funding would have allowed us to accelerate the work we are doing here.While we are disappointed to not receive Promise Neighborhoods program funding, the East Austin Children’s Promise is by no means a new initiative for us. We found the process very beneficial and as a result, a strong collaborative of individuals and organizations, elected officials and nonprofits, universities and colleges has emerged who are all committed to working together to transform this community. We will continue our work.We did not wait for a green light from other entities to start this work seven years ago. Rather we started the work to make good on our promise to East Austin neighborhoods. From the beginning, we recognized that if we were truly interested in community transformation, then we could not wait for others to give us "permission". Rather we needed to partner with the community, talk to the community and be a part of that same community. This is how we affect change at a level that can sustain our neighborhoods. And that is what we are doing. Regardless of whether additional federal funding becomes available, we will continue to accelerate our efforts and keep that promise.Since the summer Southwest Key has welcomed almost 200 students and a new class of 6th graders to the East Austin College Prep Academy, 400 children enrolled in our Boys & Girls Club, plans for the construction on a new building for our job readiness programs got underway and almost 400 community members were registered to vote – just to name some of the success we have with our programs.While the Austin Chronicle presented a balanced accounting of the story of a lack of Austin representation in the Promise Neighborhoods funding, we were disappointed in the Austin-American Statesman’s failure to include Southwest Key Programs in their articles about what changes for East Austin are underway. This is a glaring omission and once again, this community isn't getting the attention it deserves.By omitting recognition of the East Austin Children’s Promise’s work, it negates the work put forth by our community - the individuals and organizations in collaboration with various corporations, faith-based groups and local and national non-profits. It minimizes the impact of all of our work. And we have a model in East Austin that debunks the myth that people of color cannot work together to create change in our own communities.The East Austin Children’s Promise community has impacted the lives of hundreds of children who benefit from access to more resources for them and their families through a college preparatory academy, jobs, leadership programs, a Boys & Girls Club, arts and cultural events and homeownership support.Over the next few years, the East Austin Children's Promise will:
- Prepare 300 students for college through our East Austin College Prep Academy.
- Provide options for young people who have dropped out of traditional high school to earn a high school diploma through the Austin CAN Academy.
- Increase opportunities for young people to experience college settings
- Increase the capacity of East Austin residents to be prepared for employment through job creation via our social enterprise programs and workforce training;and
- Increase the quality of life and access to improvement through empowering East Austin residents to advocate on behalf of themselves and acquire and retain housing.We look forward to continued community support for the programs already changing East Austin and hope we all recognize that we need not fear empowering our communities. I think the transformation taking place in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace community is evidence of that.If you are interested in participating and joining us in this promise to the neighborhoods of East Austin, there are a couple ways to do so: 1) join our coalition, contact Joella Brooks via email or 512-462-2181; 2) join us on Oct 14th as a sponsor or golfer for Southwest Key’s Fore the Kids Golf Classic and dinner; 3) share with your friends and family the work we are doing here in East Austin.To those of you already supporting our work: iMuchas Gracias!Sincerely,Dr. Juan Sanchezwww.swkey.org/promise