American Graduate: Goodwill School Puts Adult Drop-outs Back on Track

The Goodwill Excel Center, which opened its doors in August, is a regular charter high school – except its students are adults, aged 19-50, who dropped out of high school. They teach all of the traditional high school courses, with students picking up where they left off.

Many people who drop out of high school eventually earn their GED, but Head of School Dr. Billy Harden says there is a big difference in earning potential between a GED and a regular high school diploma.

“We’re looking at possibly anywhere in the range of a $2,000 to $9,000 difference if a student gets their high school diploma,” Dr. Harden said. “I’m already seeing it changing their lives. I’m seeing more of our students coming each day and the learning is becoming more intrinsic. It’s starting to look and feel like a way to empower themselves. So, they not only have the ability to say ‘I have my high school diploma, but I’m a little smarter than I was when I got here,’ and I think that’s very important.”

We spoke to Matilda Zamarripa, who dropped out her senior year of high school. Matilda has worked successfully in the beauty industry for almost 20 years but has always wanted to earn her high school diploma.

“You kind of carry that little secret around. Like oh, I’ve never finished,” Matilda said. “My daughter definitely inspired me when she was graduating high school. Going to her graduation two years ago reminded me like ‘wow, I never got to experience this’ but I got to experience it through her. She’s now on her second year at Texas State University and that really inspired me you know, I really want[ed] to go back to school.”

You can hear more about Matilda and the Goodwill Excel Center in the video above.

A shortened version of this story will air locally as a KLRU News Briefs during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Sunday, November 23 at 6:30pm. Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

 

KLRU News Brief: Adler, Martinez Debate Leadership Qualities

On Thursday Austin Mayoral runoff candidates Steve Adler and Mike Martinez recorded Civic Summit: Mayoral Runoff Conversation, an hour-long discussion about the leadership qualities each would employ if they are elected on December 16. Our Sunday News Brief includes excerpts from that debate. The entire debate is online and will air on KLRU on Friday, November 21 at 8pm.

A point of discussion in this election has been what the mayor’s role will be in wrangling discussion and debate among the ten new city council members.

“Whether you’re a district council member from east or west Austin, your issues are going to be the same,” explained Martinez.  ”As mayor, you find that common ground, and you build on that common ground.”

“We have one city here,” said Adler.  ”And we either move together as a whole city or none of us are going to be moving together.

You can watch the entire debate online here.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

AISD Awards Belated Diplomas to War Veterans

It’s a graduation that’s been years in the making.  On Veterans Day, the Austin Independent School District awarded 11 veterans with diplomas from their respective high schools.  It’s a ceremony that AISD has held since 2002, offering veterans who did not finish high school and who served in any formally declared war or military engagement a chance to don the cap and gown.  For some, it’s a chance they’ve waited years to take.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” said Air Force veteran Doyle Hobbs.  ”It seemed like a gift from heaven.”

“I completed my G.E.D.,” recalled U.S. Military veteran Eugenio Gaona.  ”But I always wished I could get it converted so I could have a diploma from my hometown.  Now I’m happy. I have a high school diploma from my high school.”

Click here for more information on the AISD Diploma Award Ceremony and eligibility requirements.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

KLRU News Brief: Austin Transportation Bond Fails…Now What?

On Election Day Austin voters rejected a $600M transportation bond by a wide margin. For our Saturday News Brief we spoke to Capital Metro to find out if they have a plan B.

“We’re chipping away where we can,” Capital Metro President and CEO Linda Watson told us. “We have recently received federal funds and TXDOT funds to increase capacity on the current red line commuter rail line [and] within three years we will be able to offer 15 minute service. We’re also looking at operating express buses on express lanes on MoPac. You want to get the most bang for your buck, especially when you’re using taxpayer’s money.”

The City of Austin Demographer published a map this week showing how the vote broke down by precinct. It was supported by many in the urban core, but got very little support in the outlying areas.

Watson told us she does not blame the people who didn’t support paying property taxes for a system they wouldn’t use.

We also spoke to Dr. Kara Kockelman, Professor of Transportation Engineering at the University of Texas. Watch the video above to hear her thoughts on why rail might not be the best solution for Austin.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

 

American Graduate: New Data Shows Improved 9th Grade Retention Rates in Central Texas

On Sunday during PBS NewsHour, our KLRU News Brief is part of American Graduate. We spoke to our partners at E3 Alliance about new data, which shows improves rates of retention among Central Texas 9th graders.

The surge in retention between 9th and 10th grade is often referred to as a bubble. That means there is a jump in the amount of students held back compared to other school years. If students don’t get enough credits to move up with their class to 10th grade, they’re still considered 9th graders.

“We’ve seen a drop of about half of the retention rate in the last few years, and that’s incredibly important, because we’ve found those students that are retained in the 9th grade are 8 ½ times more likely to drop out as their peers who weren’t retained in 9th grade,” E3 Executive Director Susan Dawson told us.

We visited Eastside Memorial High School for E3′s data unveiling and spoke with two students about their experiences in school. Both said there are many factors holding back some of their peers.

“Some of the challenges would be like, families. Some parents have to work so kids have to stay home and watch the younger brothers and sisters, or they have work after school and get home and go to sleep to get up the next morning,” Eastside Memorial High School Junior Isaac Reyes told us. “I know some kids have dropped out, not because of work or family things, but like, they don’t see why they should have to come to school when it doesn’t relate to what they want to do. They don’t see the point in taking all these extra classes.”

Proponents of the recently enacted House Bill 5 say the students Isaac describes are exactly the ones the new graduation plan is designed to reach.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

 

 

KLRU News Brief: Interactive Exhibit at Bullock State History Museum Open Through May

On Saturday during PBS NewsHour, we go behind the scenes of a new exhibit at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. La Belle: The Ship that Changed History is unique. Museum goers can watch in real time as curators re-build a 17th Century ship, which spent 300 years underwater in Matagorda Bay.

La Belle belonged to Sieur de La Salle, a French explorer who came to the New World in 1684. He was on his way to the mouth of the Mississippi River, missed it, and landed in Texas.

“He would eventually lose the La Belle in a storm in 1686,” Guest Curator Jim Bruseth explains in our story. “The sinking of the La Belle doomed La Salle’s attempt to establish a colony. Because of that, the French presence in Texas faded, but the scare that it put in the Spanish king started the efforts to colonize and occupy Texas by Spain.”

That scare is why La Belle is called the ship that changed Texas history. The exhibit is open now and runs through May 17, 2015.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. 

 

 

KLRU News Briefs: Last Minute Surge in Voter Registration & Ten Acre Organics’ Sustainable Aquaponics

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This Saturday during PBS NewsHour Weekend we profile Ten Acre Organics, a sustainable urban farm in East Austin.

Friends Lloyd Minick and Michael Hanan founded the farm back in 2012 with the goal of creating a sustainable approach to agriculture in an urban environment. Now they’ve created a business, using composting, two aquaponics systems and naturally-ventilated greenhouses.

“We sell baskets of groceries  and what we do is we try to sell ten of them in any week to neighbors and people that we work with, and then the food that’s produced in the aquaponics system mostly herbs and greens we sell to local restaurants,” Michael Hanan said.

You can find out more about Ten Acre Organics by watching an extended version of that story on the Central Texas Gardener blog.

On Sunday, we talk to Travis County officials to get a tally of how many people registered to vote before the midnight deadline on Monday, October 6th. Travis County Tax Registrar Bruce Elfant said they saw more people registering this year than in recent gubernatorial election cycles.

“It’s not like a presidential cycle but it’s higher than we typically see in a gubernatorial year,” Elfant said. “We had locations at every Thundercloud Subs throughout Travis County. People could also register at any tax office location, or pick up cards at libraries or post offices. We believe we received as many as 10,000 cards on Monday.”

We also spoke to some University of Texas students registering their classmates on campus.

KLRU News Briefs air every Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm. 

 

 

KLRU News Briefs: Revel in Old School Charm at the Drive-In and Voter Registration Deadline Nears

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Our Saturday news brief during PBS NewsHour Weekend comes from KLRU’s Arts in Context Shorts series. This week they go inside The Blue Starlite, a vintage drive-in which utilizes vintage speakers, trailers and the tarmac of the former airport.

A few nights every week cars gather just before sundown and line up in front of the screen, the distant city skyline appearing as a backdrop. What started as a stunt to impress his then girlfriend and now wife, owner Josh Frank’s drive-in has grown to accommodate up to 50 cars, a handful of walk-ins, and a Winnebago-housed concession stand.

“The whole combined experience, especially with being outside and under the stars – it’s just a very unique experience that’s totally outside of what you would get at a traditional theater,” Manager Gregg Wehmeier said.

The last day to register to vote in the November election is Monday, October 6. So, on Sunday, we take a look back at the final two debates for Lieutenant Governor and Governor, which both took place this week. Monday, in the race for Lt. Governor, Republican Nominee Dan Patrick and Democratic Nominee Leticia Van de Putte faced off in KLRU’s Studio 6A. On Tuesday, Gubernatorial candidates, Republican Nominee Greg Abbott and Democratic Nominee Wendy Davis, debated in the KERA studio in Dallas.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Education Advocates Focus on Attendance, UT Program Supports Financially Independent Students

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The school year is now in full swing, and we have two education stories during PBS NewsHour this weekend to help ease you into things.

On Saturday, we hear from AISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz about why attendance is one of the district’s top priorities.

“We can tell from early on, as early as 5th grade, we can look at if a student is meeting promotion standards, if the student has a good attendance record and if a student is passing all of his or her classes,” Dr. Cruz said. “If that’s not happening, there’s a student who is at risk of not graduating on time with his or her class. [Our first step is] an immediate conversation with the parents to see what we can do to help out the student and the family.”

On Sunday, we hear about Horns Helping Horns, a group from New Student Services on the UT campus which offers emotional and financial support to students who are not receiving any financial help from family.

“I think students have challenges no matter what their background is and I think our students and our community a lot of times because they don’t have that emotional and financial support are dealing with a lot more stuff,” Esmer Bedia, the Horns Helping Horns Coordinator said. “But, the majority of our students are succeeding and graduating and I think that’s because we’re telling them, ya’ll can do it, you will do it and they do succeed.”

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30. 

 

 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Austin’s Growing Muslim Community and a New Farm School

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On Saturday during PBS NewsHour we hear about Austin’s growing Muslim population. Muslims around the world marked the end of Ramadan this week with Eid al-Fitr. Thousands of worshipers gathered at the North Austin Event Center on Monday to pray and listen to a sermon. It was a huge turnout for the growing community in Austin, and next  year organizers are planning to move to an even bigger venue.

“Every year is more than we can handle,” Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Community Center said Monday.

Imam Islam said that growth comes from immigrants from all over the world, as well as new converts.

“Muslims [are] spread out throughout the rest of the world, 1.5 billion Muslims, [and] in Austin that diversity is reflected. But also with the added touch of people who are Caucasian-American or African-American or Latino-American who are also coming into Islam,” Imam Islam said. “You have more than 80 different countries represented here today, probably more than that, but we are all also Americans at the same time and so we practice our faith here freely.”

On Sunday, our story is about Austin’s first ever farm school, opening this fall. Farmer Starter grew out of Farmshare Austin, a non-profit focused on educating Central Texans about farming and increasing access to organic, locally-grown food.

“It’s a very challenging business and this is a kind of challenging environment to do it in but we feel that local organic food is a human right and that people should have access to that kind of product and so we want to make sure that it’s widely available in our community,” Farmshare Austin Executive Director Taylor Cook said.

Enrolled students will live and work on the Farmer Starter farm, 10 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for six months. They will learn seed starting, harvesting, marketing, as well as financial and business planning, among other skills.

Farmshare Austin is currently trying to raise $50,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to fund construction and student scholarships. You can learn more about the school on their website.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend starting at 6:30pm.