Latina Leader: Maggie Aguas

Maggie shares the delight of reading with a child at our summer program, H-E-B Read3

Since last November, AVANCE-Austin has been fortunate to have a compassionate leader of the Home Visitation Team. Thoughtfully innovative, Maggie continues to guide the Home Visitation component of the Parent-Child Education Program to be mindfully all-inclusive of each parent’s needs. The genuine warmth and caring nature that Maggie exudes empowers mothers and staff members alike. Keep reading to learn about her inspirations and motivations!

What’s your role at AVANCE? And why were you interested in taking on this role?

I serve as the Home Educator Lead for AVANCE Austin. Prior to coming on board with AVANCE I was working at a domestic violence coalition on their public policy team– it was awesome work but I missed direct service, specifically working with Latina immigrant women. I was fortunate enough to come across the Home Educator Lead job posting and it had everything I was looking for, an established non-profit doing great work in the local community with that allowed me to work one on one with Latino parents and their children. I could not pass up the opportunity!

What’s your passion project?

There are so many great and amazing things happening right now with the home visitation component of our program but the project that has really captured my attention lately is the AVANCE parent alumni group. Under the direction of Anurita Mittra, Director of Programs, our team has worked hard to bring this idea to life. One of our objectives is to reengage parents that graduated from our 9 month Parent Child Education Program and continue to offer them programs and support in reaching their goals. The most exciting part of this for me is we’re creating an opportunity for some of the alumni to take on leadership roles and we’ll be using their feedback to inform the services and programming that we’re providing them. How awesome is that?!

What drives you to do what you do? What motivates you?

It’s simple, a desire to help parents recognize their strengths and how capable and influential they are in the lives of their children and the future of the community they live in.

Who inspires you?

My mom. Growing up my mom struggled as a single mother – she had a limited education, no resources, and not very many options. She overcame so many challenges and was resilient in the face of adversity. My mom lifted 7 Latino children out of poverty and provided us access to an education, resources and she instilled in us a belief that our options were endless. I see my mom’s strength in all of the AVANCE moms, that too inspires me.

Maggie, you are an inspiration to the AVANCE team! Mil gracias for everything you do!

Maggie representing AVANCE at Dia de los Niños 2017!

Honoring our Travis County Heroes


If you’re looking for an example of courage, leadership and compassion, look no further than the Travis County Elected Officials and Travis County Staff. They see the dignity in all our neighbors and believe that all of them deserve the right to reach their potential. We are more than proud to be their community partner and have AVANCE-Austin in their strategic plan for community enhancement. Their pivotal partnership and financial assistance through the Travis County Health and Human Services Department has enabled AVANCE to move many more families off the waiting list and into our life changing program, empowering mothers to be confident advocates for their children’s education.
On November 1, we hope you’ll join us at the Valor y Sueños Luncheon to not only thank them for our partnership, but for their unwavering leadership in keeping Austin a welcoming community.
The Valor y Sueños Luncheon honors the courage & dreams of parents who strive against all odds to help their children grow up healthy, happy, and successful. We will never give up on their dreams of children who, if given the chance, will strengthen the fabric of our country. With your participation, we will not only experience an empowering afternoon, we will also provide significant support to ensure that very young children and their parents have the chance to thrive in our community.   


Summer Spotlight: Jessica Donaldson

“The AVANCE families remind me of my own,” Jessica Donaldson shares after completing the classroom preparations for tomorrow’s summer camp. “I see the moms and I think of my mom. I watch how attentive and caring they are to their kids, see how hard working they are, and hear them practicing English, and I’m reminded of all the challenges my mother faced raising me in a different culture as a Hispanic immigrant.”  

An Austinite, Jessica grew up on the East End, just a few blocks away from the AVANCE-Austin office. She views this summer internship, which initially originated as a graduation requirement for her teaching degree at Texas State, as an opportunity to give back to a community she knows and loves, a community that is family.  

Jessica returns to her home neighborhood as a classroom assistant for AVANCE’s H-E-B Read 3 summer camp. During the seven-week program, she’s diligently worked with the AVANCE teachers to orchestrate an interactive and engaging literacy and nutrition camp for both mothers and children. Throughout the weekly classes, she’s exhibited a steadiness, an innate drive to serve and a natural ease that make her a source of calm and care for children, and reliable and resilient facilitator for her team of instructors.  

She notes that working with the AVANCE teachers has been one of the highlights of her summer. Witnessing the teachers motivate and uplift families with their boundless energy and enthusiasm for learning has illuminated her vision of the teacher she strives to be, and the summer experiences at AVANCE will continue to nurture and sustain this vision until it is a reality.  

Summer Spotlight: Amber Walker

This summer, Amber Walker stepped out of the familiar world of corporate banking at Wells Fargo and slipped into the daily workings and busy musings of nonprofit life at AVANCE. Amber’s spirited belief in AVANCE’s mission and the organization’s ongoing enhancement and expansion prompted her to apply for Wells Fargo’s Volunteer Service Leave Program. This unique program grants employees a temporary, alternative work experience in outside organizations serving the community. Amber was eager to apply for the exciting opportunity to be immersed in her favorite organization, AVANCE-Austin.  

An active community member, Amber initially learned of AVANCE through a volunteer experience. As a Financial Literacy Council Chair in the local Wells Fargo network, she organized bilingual volunteers to assist and teach at a financial literacy resource session for an AVANCE resources course. After a site visit to see AVANCE in action, Amber was wholeheartedly committed to helping this organization achieve and succeed.  

Applying and receiving the Volunteer Service Leave Program was the next step in deepening her commitment and strengthening her skill set to assist AVANCE’s continued growth.  As a recipient, she was given an insider’s glimpse into the intricacies of a nonprofit, and through this fresh lens, she gleaned new insights on how to effectively contribute to AVANCE from the inside out.  

“We’re at a pivotal time in our organization where we have the chance for enhanced stabilization and presence,” she remarked in contemplating AVANCE-Austin’s progress. “This comes from having a permanent facility of our own that will allow us to realize our goal of doubling the number of families we serve.”  

During her summer session, she’s dedicated her energy and time in helping AVANCE reach this goal of serving more families by diversifying fundraising avenues, assisting with capacity building and working closely on development projects. Her representation of our Austin chapter at a national board and chapters meeting in Dallas shined as one of the summer’s highlights.  

“It was just so grounding and uplifting to meet other board members that are equally as passionate about AVANCE as I am and brainstorm and share best practices and successes.”  

As Amber returns to Wells Fargo, she leaves with these types of experiences that invigorate her wholehearted commitment to advance AVANCE’s mission and a heightened awareness on how to do exactly just that.  

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How to #AmplifyAVANCE!

Amplify (1)

Thank you for joining our campaign to Amplify AVANCE! Together, we’ll raise $30,000 to change everything for very young, low-income children and their parents. Spread the word with your friends, family, and community about AVANCE-Austin’s work and make 2017 the best Amplify year ever!

Creating your Fundraising Profile
Step 1:

  • Visit our Amplify Austin page:
  • Click on “Create a fundraising campaign” button on right side.
  • You’ll need to create a log-in with your email and create a password.

Step 2: Create your profile

  • Organization: This should say “AVANCE-Austin”. If not, you can enter that.
  • Fundraiser title: This can be something like “Unlock America’s Potential”—whatever is meaningful to you.
  • Your fundraiser summary: This is your opportunity to share what is meaningful for you and why you support
  • AVANCE-Austin. What makes this organization special to you? It can be as serious or fun as you want!
  • URL link: this can be your fundraiser title, but you can also just use your name. An example:
  • Add a photo: It can be an AVANCE photo (there are plenty on Facebook) or a picture of you.
  • Your personal appeal: Short summary sentence that will go with your photo. For example, “5 donations of $20 will meet my goal! Will you help?”
  • Fundraiser goal: Set a realistic goal, make a plan and do your best! We suggest a minimum of $100 for your personal goal. (If you asked 10 friends to donate just $10 each, or 5 friends to donate $20 each, you’d meet your goal in no time!)

Step 3: Submit for Approval

  • Click “Submit Fundraiser for Approval”
  • The AVANCE team will approve your profile as soon we can so that you can start sharing your page!

Deadline to submit your individual fundraising profile for approval is March 1 at 5:00 pm.

Donors may begin prescheduling gifts through your page as soon as your profile is submitted and approved. Scheduled donations count towards 2017 Amplify Austin Day goals and will not be charged until Amplify Austin Day (March 2).

Promoting your Fundraising Campaign

  • The first step towards your goal is to share it with your network. Use tools you already use to communicate with your friends and family. Social media, emails and phone calls or text messages are all great ways to raise awareness and funds.
  • Before posting on social media, give your fundraiser a little momentum by reaching out to friends and family directly via email, text message, or phone call. A personal message asking for their support will go a long way. Make sure to:
    • Include a link to your personal fundraiser page.
    • Offer a quick explanation of AVANCE-Austin does:
      • AVANCE-Austin’s innovative dual generation approach is closing the gap and unlocking potential for children from low-income, Spanish-speaking families. Each year, AVANCE provides 25,000 hours of instruction and over 1,000 home visits to 300 parents and children.

Here’s a sample message:

Hey John, 

Tomorrow is Amplify Austin. In case you aren’t familiar with it, Amplify Austin is a city-wide 24-hour online giving campaign for local non-profits. I’m excited to support AVANCE-Austin this year and hope you’ll join me. The money raised will directly benefit very young, low-income children and their parents by providing FREE dual-generation parent and early childhood education and family support services.

I’m trying to raise $100 in 24 hours from 6pm Thursday, March 2 to 6pm, Friday, March 3. If I can get 5 people to each donate $20 or more, I’m there. It’s important for me to help change everything for young Hispanic children and their families. I hope you’ll support me and these children by making a gift to my fundraising page below. If you know you’ll be unavailable on Amplify Austin Day, you can also pre-schedule your gift and it will count towards my goal. Thanks in advance! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions, and thanks for reading!

  • Once you’ve done your first round of personal outreach, social media is a great next step to keep everyone updated on your progress and impact. Promote on your own social media channels, with a link to your personal fundraising page to make it easy for your friends to donate
  • Want to go the extra mile? Make a donation to your own fundraiser to set the example and kick off your fundraising efforts!

Social Media

Follow #AmplifyAVANCE and let’s get trending across all platforms!

Facebook: @AvanceAustin 

“Like” us and share our Amplify posts. Or create your own content using hashtags: #AmpilfyATX and #AmplifyAVANCE.

Sample Post:
I’m proud to support @AvanceAustin this year through #AmplifyATX. Visit to learn more and help support young Hispanic children and families in Austin. 

Twitter: @AVANCEAustin

Again, save yourself time and retweet us. Consider adding a personal message to encourage your friends to give.  Make sure to use the #AmplifyATX or #AmplifyAVANCE in all your tweets!

Sample post:
Excited to support @AVANCEAustin this year during #AmplifyATX! Preschedule your gift to give back to Austin TODAY [include your campaign link]

Just a few hours left to #AmplifyATX! Help @AVANCEAustin reach their goal of $30K before 6pm [include your campaign link]

24 hours to give back to @AVANCEAustin during #AmplifyATX! Your gift will change everything for Hispanic families [include your campaign link]

Help me reach my goal to #AmplifyAVANCE! I need just 5 friends to give $20 each before 6pm today. Can you help? [include your campaign link]

Tip: Use a URL shortener like or for your campaign link if you need more character space.

Instagram: AVANCE-Austin is not on Instagram yet, but if you have an account, please feel free to spread the word through photos, and don’t forget to tag @ilh_igh and use the hashtags #AmplifyAustin #AmplifyAVANCE

For questions, contact Melinda Gonzales Boe

Volunteer at AVANCE-Austin’s Holiday Party


Calling all volunteers! AVANCE-Austin’s annual Holiday Party is upon us!

When: Friday, December 16, 2016

What is the Holiday Party?

Every year, the families of our program, AVANCE staff and supporters get together to connect over a joyous holiday meal. The party is a way to celebrate our community’s most deserved families with music and games. Volunteers are a huge part of what makes the event successful, so we invite you to help spread the holiday cheer!

What you’ll be doing

  • Decorating and set up (Dec. 16, 8:00am – 10:30am)
  • Greeting families (Dec. 16, 10:30am – 2pm)
  • Serving food (Dec. 16, 12pm – 1:30pm)
  • Assisting with game and craft stations (Dec. 16, 10:30am – 2pm)
  • Clean up (Dec 16, 1:30pm – 2:30pm)


*AISD Performing Arts Center – 1500 Barbara Jordan Blvd, Austin, TX 78723

Free parking is provided.

*Please note change in location. We are not meeting at the Allan Center.


  • Ability to speak Spanish a plus, although not necessary


  • Delicious meal provided
  • A chance to serve Austin’s most deserved families and be a part of the celebration
  • Event-planning experience

Fill out the volunteer form here and we will contact you shortly!

If you have questions, please contact Anurita Mittra.

Please also consider contributing to our Holiday Wish List to help make our party special!

Help Us Make the Holidays Happy & Bright!


Each December families enrolled in the Parent-Child Education program, staff, and AVANCE-Austin supporters come together for an afternoon of fun to celebrate the holiday season. The highlight of the annual holiday party is always the joy on the children’s faces when they sit on Santa’s lap. The vast majority of families in our program are low-income, and while the parents are giving their child the gift of educational opportunity, they may lack the resources necessary to afford much else that Christmas. Every year, we rely on the generosity of AVANCE supporters to help make the holiday party special for our families.



This year’s Holiday Party is on December 16th and we are asking for your help to provide the following for our party:

·Beverage (Water/ice tea or lemonade) for our families

·Pan Dulce or sweet breads

·Sorting and nesting toys

·Push and pull toys

·Modeling clay


·Hardback books with rounded edges

·Soft balls

·Musical toys

·Pop-up toys

·Stacking rings

·Shape sorters

·Simple puzzles

For more information and to donate items, please contact Anurita Mittra.

Volunteers are also needed to help set up and run activities!


9th Annual Luncheon raised $127K!

View the photos from the Luncheon and VIP Meet & Greet Cocktail Reception. (All photos taken by Victor Ovalle for AVANCE-Austin.)

Over 335 supporters attended the AVANCE-Austin 9th Annual Luncheon last Wednesday, October 19 to change everything for low-income children and their parents.


John Quinones dazzles the guests.

In fact, we had a record-breaking year, raising over $127,000 that will change the lives of hundreds of children.

Thanks to our co-presenting sponsors, H-E-B and Seton Ascension, Emmy-award winning television journalist and author, John Quiñones, shared his remarkable story about his journey as the child of a migrant farm working family to becoming one of the most recognized faces in broadcast news today.


Long-time AVANCE supporter Beth Misner of BNI captured her thoughts about the luncheon and AVANCE’s mission. Click on the image to watch her testimonial!

Continue reading

John Quiñones: AVANCE makes life better for children

First published on Sunday, October 9, 2016
Austin American Statesman – Opinion

By John Quiñones

My father, Bruno, worked as a janitor in San Antonio. He had no education and spoke only Spanish. So when I was 13 and my dad was laid off, his only option was to pack up his family and join a migrant workers caravan.

My parents, sisters and I picked cherries in Michigan and tomatoes in Ohio. The hours were brutal, the pay next to nothing. I was a fifth-generation Texas child, descended from a long line of hardworking, Spanish-only-speaking families, and I was destined to repeat my father’s life.

Until I received two gifts.

Continue reading

6 ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month


Now that it’s Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15), it’s time to celebrate! President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this 30-day period into law in 1968 and since then, communities throughout the U.S. have been celebrating in various ways. National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the independence of 5 Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Here at AVANCE, we happen to have families and teachers from each of those countries. Continue reading