Partner Spotlight: CapCityKids
Contributed by: Aarti Bhat
Girls Empowerment Network and CapCityKids have long had a shared goal and positive relationship. CapCityKids has recently donated generously to our scholarship fund for the We Are Girls Conference in order to help girls with fewer resources be able to attend the amazing event. In honor of this amazing gift, we wanted to turn the spotlight to this organization and highlight the incredible work it does around the Austin area!
CapCityKids, or The Capital City Fund for Education, is a non-profit organization with a mission to help children facing homelessness get a quality education. CapCityKids was originally formed as a result of the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Austin schools had a large number of students who fled Katrina to come to its schools. Members of the community who were volunteering with Project Help (an AISD program for students experiencing homelessness) at the time saw the detrimental effects of homelessness on children’s education, and decided to form CapCityKids in order to help displaced persons. It does this by developing programs and providing resources to assist these students in need to stay in school. CapCityKids funds a math specialist at Matthews Elementary to work with the homeless population and at-risk students struggling academically. In addition, it launched a tutoring program at Safeplace, an emergency women’s shelter. The program provides tutoring are resources for school aged children living within the shelter, making education more accessible to them. It also established a program in the Austin Independent School District.
On any given night, there are approximately 643,067 people experiencing homelessness in America. Students who are homeless have high mobility, which leads to a constant disruption in their education, as well as social and emotional connections. Extra help is often critical to maintaining their skills.
I was able to speak with Kate Amerson of CapCityKids, who was recently named the Texas Social Work Field Instructor of the Year. Kate oversees a team of graduate school interns from the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, and she guides them to serve children in need within the Austin Independent School District. This innovative program was a collaboration created by CapCityKids and Project Help, and strives to assist young students undergoing turmoil and facing homelessness or displacement.
Kate spoke to me about the role of her social work interns within the CapCityKids established program in AISD, as well as their training. Interns provide counseling in four different ways—individual counseling, small group counseling, brief service in regards to a temporary issue affecting a child, and crisis counseling. Kate’s job is to train these interns to be prepared for this work. The interns go through a comprehensive orientation and training period prior to working with the students, and a variety of professionals are brought in to talk to the interns about counseling skills. Kate additionally observes students’ work and provides them with constructive feedback throughout the course of the year. She has one-on-one meetings with each intern, and supervises them individually as well as in a group context.
“Our program has an extensive support base,” said Kate. “There are six to ten interns in the cohort, and they very much rely upon each other and get very close. In addition, they can always come to me, the school social worker, or faculty liaisons at UT. There are definitely difficult cases that the interns face, and that support network is crucial in helping the interns help the young students”.
One of Kate’s former interns, Caroline, now works at GEN. “I was in my first year of graduate school at UT for Social Work when I became an intern at the CapCityKids AISD program. Kate was my supervisor, and I learned so much from her and from working with the kids.” Caroline described her personal passion to give girls a seat at the table, and she believes that CapCityKids and GEN share a common goal to empower individuals. “The missions are so interconnected, and it is really cool to see such a positive partnership between these two organizations I love. I also love that interns from CapCityKids often end up getting involved with GEN, either as volunteers, interns, or employees. I think the skills needed for both organizations really complement each other.”
“Because people like Caroline are committed to get service to kids in need, we are able to collaborate between GEN and CapCity,” said Kate. When CapCity found out, for example, that GEN needed scholarship money to help girls from low socioeconomic households attend We Are Girls in November, they gave a generous donation. “We are all committed to helping the youth. GEN also lets my interns sign up any girls they work with in AISD to attend the conference. The conference is all about helping girls find their power, and we are very excited for it.”