ABOUT

A child with an education
is unstoppable!

THE PROBLEM

Children born into poverty want to play, live, learn and dream like other children. Sadly, many of our underprivileged children don’t have access to necessary educational opportunities. They are left feeling defeated, frustrated and many become a statistic.

THE HARSH TRUTH

  • By the time many children from low-income families enter grade school, their proficiency in reading has already become an issue. Approximately, 47 percent of fourth graders from low-income families read below the basic level. 1

  • ⅔ of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.2

  • Children living in poverty have a higher rate of absenteeism because they are more likely to have to work or care for family members.2

  • Nearly half of all children that are born into poverty will continue to be poor as adults.3

OUR MISSION

Austin Kids Can! was founded with a single mission.
WE ARE GOING TO CLOSE THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP FOR ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN IN AUSTIN, TEXAS.

Our work is cut out for us, our sleeves are rolled up, and we’re honored and excited to make a difference.

A LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER

Donna Raskin

My interest in helping Austin’s underprivileged children began with one little girl. I met this little girl when I was working as a teaching assistant at a charter school in Austin, Texas. At the time, she was 5 years old and she had seen more adversity than some people will ever experience in their lifetime. Understandably, she was struggling to keep her grades up. She was not attending class regularly and she was starting to act out.

I wanted to see if I could help, so I began tutoring her two days a week after school. Together, we would go to the library to read, we would work on difficult math problems, or we would grab dinner and just talk about life.

As the afternoons came and went, I noticed something started to change. Gradually, her grades increased to high B’s and A’s. The conflicts she was having with other schoolmates began to decrease. When she walked into a room she was beaming with confidence. She began raising her hand in class and participating in discussions. When she was having a particularly hard day, she felt safe enough to speak to me or her teacher about the obstacles in her way. When I saw how these afternoons were helping her, I knew I couldn’t stop there.

Austin Kids Can! was born from my desire to provide a safe environment for our underprivileged kids in Austin to learn, grow and dream. In Fall 2017 we began offering our CS and coding programs to students in need living in Austin, Texas.

None of this would be possible without your support and contributions. Thank you for helping us progress on this journey. Join us as we continue to create high quality after school programs to underprivileged children of Austin.

To education for everyone,

donna-signature

WHAT WE'RE DOING

To close the achievement gap and build brighter tomorrows, we will bring our K-5 after school programs directly to the elementary schools and students who need additional educational support. Students will have access to our after school programs: Computer Science & Coding and Social & Emotional Learning.

WHY AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS MATTER

  • Children who attend high quality programs have better peer relations, emotional adjustment, conflict resolution skills, and grades, compared to their peers who are not in after school programs.4

  • Students who spend 1-4 hours per week in extracurricular activities are 49% less likely to use drugs.5

  • A report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers showed that 45% of all afterschool program participants improved their reading grades.

MEET OUR TEAM

Our Board Members

DONNA RASKIN

Founder & President

Donna Raskin is the founder and President of Austin Kids Can!  Donna has been an active volunteer in the Austin community for over 12 years and has held leadership and hands-on roles with SafePlace, Rock on Center for Kids (ROCK), Partners in Education and the Junior League of Austin. Ms. Raskin resided in California and practiced as a CPA for 20 years prior to her move to Austin with her husband to be. In 2017, Donna created Austin Kids Can! to provide after school opportunities for the underprivileged and economically disadvantaged  children of Austin. Donna received her Bachelor degree in Economics-Business at UCLA and her Master degree in Tax Law at Golden Gate University.

LIZ STEVENSON

Board Member

Liz Stevenson has always had a love to travel and to help others.  After graduating with a Masters in International Management in Heidelberg, Germany, she came back stateside to build her career in technology. Ms. Stevenson knew technology would change the world and how we do business. Ms. Stevenson has a strong history in application management software and channel management with CISCO, Peer 1 and Integrated Research.  At Cisco, she was a founder of the Women’s Action Network and worked with Girl Start to encourage young girls to stay in science, math and technology.  Ms. Stevenson  graduated from Regis University with a Bachelor degree in Business Administration and Public Relations.

CHRIS CYNDECKI

Treasurer

Chris is passionate about helping younger generations develop a curiosity for learning and self-improvement. In the professional setting, Chis works as a financial planner for Pioneer Wealth Management Group, helping individuals build clarity and confidence around their personal finances. Chris holds the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner® (CFP) designations. In his free time, Chris enjoys live music, skiing, basketball, hiking the Greenbelt, and reading.

LIZ WILSON

Board Member

Liz Wilson is passionately committed to serving her community, specifically in the areas of child and disabled persons advocacy, and has been involved in the Austin non-profit community since 2012. She is the former Executive Director of Foster Angels of Central Texas, an Austin non-profit dedicated to providing assistance to Central Texas foster children and is the past Development Director for Texas Gun Sense, an organization who advocates for common-sense gun legislation. She has worked for the Arc of the Capital Area assisting individuals with developmental disabilities, and is a long time volunteer of Meals on Wheels of Central Texas. Ms. Wilson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelors degree in Sociology and has lived in Austin since 2005 with her husband.

JAMES Y LI

Board Member

James works at the intersection of governments, nonprofits, and private companies to create innovative financing solutions to improve social outcomes. Currently at Social Finance, a leading nonprofit, James assesses, structures, and manages projects that focus on improving workforce outcomes for low-income, underserved individuals and expanding access to high-quality education and job training programs. Prior to joining Social Finance, James worked as an investment professional in growth equity, conducting new investment due diligence and portfolio company management. James graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with a BBA in Finance and a BA in Economics. In his spare time, James enjoys reading, playing his guitar, and puzzling over strategy games.

LAURA D MOLEX

Board Member

Laura D. Molex has been involved in the Austin non-profit community for over 20 years. She served as a board member for The Aids Services of Austin (Vivent Health) for three years, worked as a program manager for Marathon Kids and is a volunteer/donor for a number of organizations – Jeremiah Program, Women’s Symphony League, Marathon Kids, African American Youth Harvest Foundation and American Red Cross of Central Austin. Laura’s held leadership roles at Dell, Inc, Marketo (Adobe), and Box, Inc.  She graduated from Saint Edward’s University with a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication. When Laura isn’t working she enjoys spending time with her family, baking, playing tennis, and road cycling. 

SHANNON LOLLAR

Board Member

I have over 20 years audit experience working in several industries including financial services, healthcare, construction/engineering and state government. I possess several professional certifications including Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Currently, I work as an Internal Auditor for University Federal Credit Union (UFCU). I have lived my whole life in the Austin area and graduated from St Edward’s University with a BBA in Accounting. I serve on Foundation Communities’ Volunteer Leadership Team and provide assistance as part of their free tax preparation services for low-income individuals (including sole proprietors, seniors and military personnel). In my free time, I enjoy traveling and going to wineries with friends.

JEFF BUTLER

Board Member

Jeff has always had an interest in helping communities close to home and abroad.  He previously served on the board of Rainbow Days in Dallas and worked with a Social Impact firm in India to provide funding for small agricultural organizations.  He joined Austin Kids Can! to help provide better educational access to Austin’s youth.  Jeff has spent most of his career in consulting and now works with Dell’s product strategy group.  He graduated from the University of Texas of Austin with a BBA in Finance and then received an MBA from the University of Chicago.  When Jeff isn’t working he enjoys tennis, running, and cooking.

Michael G. Hainsworth

Board Member

Having lived up in Austin since 1981, Michael G. Hainsworth was looking for a way to give back to his home town which led to him joining the board of AKC in February of 2020.  A local entrepreneur, Michael has successfully owned and operated a number of different businesses in different fields including pollution control equipment for the energy industry, farm & ranch equipment distribution, and real estate development. 

Michael’s educational journey started in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) having attended elementary school to high school in the district, and graduating from Anderson High School in 1994. Michael then studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas, and later graduated with a BS in Liberal Studies from Excelsior College of New York. Michael is also a graduate of Oxford University’s Said Business School with a post graduate degree in International Business, as well as being an alumnus of Yale University after completing the highly selective, one year long, Yale Global Executive Leadership Program.

Michael has two children in high school and strongly believes that all children deserve a quality education, no matter their socio-economic background. 

COMMUNITY ADVISORS

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BE A PART OF SOMETHING BIGGER

We’re on a mission to close the achievement gap and create a future where all children of Austin have the chance to succeed. Want to help? Explore our volunteer opportunities and join the team.

Sources

1:  National Center for Education Statistics. The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL).

2: Write Express Corporation. “Literacy Statistics.” Begin to Read. Accessed February 24, 2015.

3: United Way Austin. “Poverty continues to climb for Austin children.” January, 29, 2013.  

4: Baker and Witt, 1996; Kahne, Nagaoka & Brown, 1999; Posner & Vandell, 1999.

5: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1996.

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