Real progress! East Austin doing something about drop-outs


Imagine having no middle school for your child. That’s the situation for many East Austin families. A new middle school not only fills that void, it creates an innovative learning environment that prepares these kids for college – not just high school but college.

Tomorrow night (November 5), Southwest Key will host an open house for the East Austin College Prep Academy. They’re very proud. And they want everyone to attend.

We had a feature about mentoring and middle school and drop-out rates in AISD in our latest issue (download it here). Frankly, the numbers scare the hell out of me. And if you plan to raise a family in Austin, they should scare you, too.

Great news: Not only can you do something about it, others are doing something about it, too.

Southwest Key has a weird name but you should get to know them because they are the largest Hispanic-serving nonprofit in Austin. They started this middle school where there was none, and it’s going to make a huge difference in Austin’s Hispanic community.

We talked to John Turner, the Interim Director of Communications for Southwest Key.

1. This year there were 90 sixth graders that started the academy. Next year you’ll have a seventh grade and then an eighth grade campus. Who are these students and what middle schools/high schools would they otherwise attend?

We are based in the Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood in East Austin, a neighborhood that has not had a middle school for many years. As there is no local middle school, the students were being bused out to middle schools in other parts of the city.

 Our students come from 26 different schools in Austin and have chosen our school because it is based on the highly successfully YES college prep model that has been ranked among the top 100 schools in America by US News & World Report

 2. Why a middle school? Wouldn’t a college-prep program focus on high school students?

There’s a number of reasons why a middle school. We canvassed the local community and parents, and they overwhelmingly requested a middle school. Many parents found it hard to get involved with their kids education due to the busing, so housing the school in our community center made a lot of sense.

We also analyzed research about at what stage was the best place to start affecting education and the drop-out rates, and it was apparent that starting with middle school would have a greater benefit and impact for local kids and families. 

3. So at this open house tomorrow, what can we expect to see?

All of the classrooms and facilities will be open, visitors will also be able to talk to the principal Dr. Nellie Cantu, school staff about the curriculum and approach, and hear from Southwest Key CEO, Dr. Juan Sánchez, about our future plans to expand quality education alternatives in East Austin.  

(Editor’s note: I heare there will also be food and drinks….)

4. I want to support your work with this middle school/academy. What are some ways I can get involved?

We always need advocates and supporters for our approach, which is simply providing an alternative quality education for children in East Austin.

Volunteers are welcome for the many after-school and other support programs, (the Boys and Girls Club is also housed here), offering to host field trips for the students service projects, and donations of school supplies are most welcome too! 

For more information, please contact Victoria Gutierrez at vgutierrez@swkey or 512-583-2567.



Open House
Thursday, November 5, 2009

6002 Jain LaneAustin, TX 78721


Appetizers, wine and hors d’oeuvres, performance, and more!


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1 Comment on Real progress! East Austin doing something about drop-outs

  1. Hey Monica,
    Great post. SW KEY is a GEM of the East Side and I am happy to see them expand even more. Everyone knows that our children are the future. However our Austin graduation rate is horrible. SW Key is taking a stand to change all that. I applaud them

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