Need Statement

Need for Cross-Cultural Connection and Social-Emotional Learning

At a time when the world is experiencing an alarming increase in violence, fear and division among countries, religions, races and political beliefs, it is imperative that all people, including youth, are provided opportunities to engage and interact with people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.  This is true in all communities, including Austin.

As Austin continues to grow in size and popularity, it is easy to focus on the positive changes occurring in our community and ignore the dark side of our city’s past and the negative aspects of growth.  However, consider these facts:

According to a study by the Martin Prosperity Institute, Austin is one of the most economically segregated cities in the nation.  Austin public schools were rated “intensely” segregated by the University of Texas. Austin is the only large city in the U.S. with a declining African-American population.  In short, our city is segregated, and few initiatives exist to integrate citizens from all backgrounds in Austin.

In addition, Austin lacks sufficient resources to help the increasing numbers of immigrants and refugees integrate into the community.  According to the census, the Latino population in Central Texas has doubled since 1980, and is expected to double again by 2040.  Austin is also a resettlement city, with roughly 12,000 refugees currently living, working, and going to school.  This is an amazing opportunity for all of us in Austin to gain a global perspective from our new neighbors; unfortunately, this opportunity is not yet being realized in a significant way.

Finally, research has demonstrated that in 2014, 18% of Austin’s high school students missed days of school due to depression and anxiety, and 23% reported an inability to cope with their negative emotions.  These numbers indicate that many young people in our community are suffering, and sadly, the statistics are steadily worsening year after year.

Both of these widespread problematic issues (segregation and emotional suffering) are exacerbated by the pervasive sense of separation in our modern society.  Fortunately, there is an antidote for separation, and that is community!!  We invite you to join us.