Austin Voices for Education and Youth was founded in July 2003 under the leadership of Amy Averett as a merger of two local efforts – Community IMPACT! Austin and Austin Voices for Public Schools – that sought to improve schools and expand opportunities for Austin’s young people.
In its early years, AVEY worked closely with two national organizations, the Public Education Network (PEN) and the Forum for Youth Investment, which provided access to best practices and national support.
AVEY’s first Stand Up student leadership program was at Garza Independence High School, and was credited by the principal as a key success factor at the campus. In 2005, AVEY was recognized by the Austin Chronicle with a “Best of Austin” award for “Best Out-of the-Box Public School Philosophy.”
“The (high school redesign) process wouldn’t be quite the same, though, without Austin Voices for Education and Youth, a nonprofit based out of the already cutting-edge Garza High. The youth mobilizers of Austin Voices are working long and hard to get other kids (and adults) to weigh in on the process to make sure AISD’s concept of ‘relevance’ is actually relevant.”
Over the years, AVEY has built a reputation for facilitating powerful collaborations between youth and adults.
Groups such as the E3 Alliance and the Gates Foundation have called on AVEY to lead community engagement efforts. Examples of AVEY’s efforts have included:
Student-led candidate forums for school trustee elections
Teacher study groups around innovative strategies for at-risk youth
Implementation of the “Lifeskills” curriculum in AISD
The “Our Voices” community conversation process to support AISD’s strategic plan
The “Right Question Project” curriculum to equip parents to support, monitor and advocate for their children
“Creative Expressions” after school programs that mobilize student voices using art, music and spoken word.
In 2010, AVEY founder Amy Averett turned over the organization to current Executive Director Allen Weeks, who had been a frequent collaborator with Austin Voices.
While maintaining the mission, vision and programs that had made AVEY a powerful force for educational change, Weeks brought programs that he and his wife Julie had initiated through their work in the St. John community.
These include the Family Resource Centers, Stand Up for Reagan effort in the St. John community and Save Texas Schools, which they had founded along with AVEY board member Susan Moffat to address accountability laws affecting schools in diverse, low income communities.
AVEY continues to innovate and improve to meet the challenging landscape of public education in Texas.
The foundation of all its efforts remains the strong belief that democracy works. Given the right training and support, youth and adult community stakeholders can grow and sustain great public schools that meet the needs of all children.