When we think about God’s heart for, and activity in, our city, healing brokenness and turning suffering into flourishing, it’s impossible to ignore the relationship between education and poverty. According to this 2014 report, 53% of children whose mothers had not graduated high school lived below the official federal poverty rate. And the most significant predictor of a child’s future success in school is their mother’s literacy level.
One block west of our Medina Street property, housed in the Emmanuel United Methodist Church building, a non-profit organization called Todos Juntos (Spanish for “All Together”) serves our community with daily programs that combat intergenerational poverty among Spanish-speakers in and around Austin. A few weeks ago I spoke with the Founder & Executive Director, Christina Collazo, who told me the story of the organization and explained how they go about accomplishing their mission of “building a community of dignity for families to realize their own success.”
Todos Juntos serves mothers and their children with a three-pronged approach combining early childhood education, English as a Second Language instruction, and culturally appropriate parenting and life skills education. While the children are in a fun, quality learning environment, their mothers are in an adult education program designed to empower them through English language development, parenting and life skill classes, and field trips to strategic places around Austin. Through their strong emphasis on building community they have a retention rate of over 90%! Todos Juntos partners with thirteen different organizations, including Austin Community College, with whom each adult program participant is automatically enrolled.
Todos Juntos is always looking for more volunteers: specifically, they have needs for people to read one-on-one with children, operations volunteers, and potential board members. They are also always looking for opportunities for graduates of the program.
Challenges here in east Austin include parking, facilities (they are approaching capacity at Emmanuel Methodist, where they have been since 2013), and the ways gentrification is rapidly changing the demographic. Christina challenged me to think about how Christ Church could become a bridge to connect long-time neighborhood residents and some of the newer things happening in the neighborhood.
Learn more about Todos Juntos at their website: http://todosjuntoslc.org/