Since its inception in 1997, the Seedling Foundation (formerly the Travis Community Education Foundation) has had at its core a deep concern for the safety, well-being, and prosperity of Austin area public schools, their students, their families, and their facilities. Founder and Austin attorney John C. Blazier often repeated the mantra: “As go the public schools in our community, so goes the health and well being of Austin.” In the early years of the Foundation’s history, great effort and leveraged financial support resulted in the building of school-to-career institutes which still serve thousands of students annually as they prepare for careers in the culinary arts, health sciences, and automotive industry.
Mr. Blazier’s vision of keeping public schools attractive to taxpayers evolved into a major programming area for the Foundation in its formative years. Saturday Campus Beautification projects, staffed by volunteers, resulted in the transformation of AISD facilities through landscaping, masonry, and painting. Every high school, middle school, and dozens of elementary schools have been touched by Seedling’s efforts to maintain public school facilities and, in so doing, foster confidence and support of public schools.
Building on the vision of supporting the community’s public schools and their students, Seedling launched its CAMP or College Admissions Mentoring Program to prepare Austin area high school sophomores to score competitively on the PSAT. The CAMP Program serves 30 students annually in a top notch preparatory class comparable to that of Kaplan, Princeton Review, and other commercial classes.
In 2006, in response to a request from Austin ISD principals, Seedling Mentor Program was born. The vision was to provide support, encouragement, information, and a nonjudgmental adult for children separated from one or both of their parents as a result of a prison sentence. The Foundation hired its first Executive Director to provide the leadership for this bold vision and to put into place the scaffolding for an organization intent on building the community’s premier school mentor program. From the beginning, the Foundation set the standard very high: Seedling Foundation’s Mentor Program would be a research informed mentor program, serving only children of incarcerated parents, doing so only in a school setting, and providing the kind of support volunteer mentors would need to cultivate impactful, long-term relationships.
Over the next 5-8 years, Seedling’s Leadership Team was cultivated, including a Project Director for the Seedling Mentor Program and a Director of Development to ensure the financial infrastructure to support the ambitious program growth. Since 2006, Seedling Foundation has served over 1600 students, with a presence at one time or another on 150+ campuses in 11 districts and 16 charter schools in Austin and Central Texas.
Enhancements to the program include a donor-funded competitive scholarship program whereby 8th graders may have $5,000 awards held for them in trust until post-secondary enrollment; a 2013-2014 partnership with Sesame Street to distribute toolkits for parents of young children of prisoners; and 2014 campus-based support groups.