By Benjamin Beane
Austin ISD families in the Dove Springs neighborhood received a friendly visit at their homes Saturday morning as part of the district’s Operation Reconnect Action Day.
Over 50 volunteers, composed of AISD staff and community members, donned red shirts and walked door-to-door to nearly 350 families. The volunteers were making sure families had everything they needed for the upcoming 2021-22 school year.
“I was quite shocked how many people were out here, but I was just curious so I opened the door to see who it was and I found you guys,” said Kayleb Allen, eighth grader at Mendez Middle School.
Kayleb acknowledged that he didn’t know he needed to register for the upcoming school year, and he would let his parents know about the enrollment clinics hosted by the district. He wants to make sure he gets registered so he can start soccer training.
“I’m a soccer player. I’ve been playing soccer for about two to three years now and my goal in life is to become the world’s best soccer player, and I have to start young if I want to be that good,” Kayleb said.
The event started at Mendez Middle School, where volunteers gathered to learn about their roles and responsibilities, connect with each other and enjoy complimentary breakfast tacos and coffee.
“Basically, I wanted to volunteer,” said AISD parent and volunteer Marco Lofat. “After a tough year for everybody, I just wanted to reach out and lend a hand to the community that has been so far — I’ve lived 20 years in Austin — been good to me.”
Each volunteer team was equipped with a team lead, at least one district staff member and campus staff member, and a bilingual speaker. Once the volunteers had all arrived, community leaders gave remarks.
“Today our mission is to listen and to learn and to connect with our students and our families,” said AISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde. “And while we do a lot of surveys, nothing can replace the person-to-person contact. We feel the energy and we can learn so much so that we can continue to improve how we provide services to our communities,”
Following Dr. Elizalde was AISD District 2 Trustee Ofelia Zapata, followed by George Morales, Constable Precinct Four, and Vanessa Fuentes, Austin City Councilwoman District 2.
At each home, residents received an AISD drawstring bag filled with information including upcoming registration and vaccine opportunities — such as the free vaccine clinic which was held simultaneously as Action Day at Mendez Middle School. Each person vaccinated received a $25 gift card to H-E-B.
Along with school registration help, students and parents had the chance to speak to district staff about any other questions or concerns.
“I think my biggest takeaway was that — I’ve visited homes before, visited families before — but never done it during the summer break, and it was a different feel,” said Houston Elementary Principal Alberto Alonso. “Families are feeling different, going through different emotions and situations through the summer break.”
Principal Alonso said he will use his experience from AISD Action Day to plan for more frequent check-ins and visits over the summer break to help Houston families.
AISD will hold more Action Days, enrollment clinics and vaccine opportunities throughout the summer.