While schools opposite While Houston does its best to provide students with access to an inspiring, quality education, resource shortages, systemic barriers and other challenges disproportionately impact Houston’s underserved communities and students. To ensure younger generations have the foundation they need to pursue equitable and sustainable lifestyles, a variety of nonprofit organizations have stepped up to support communities with companion programs across the city.
Through arts, nutrition education, and literature programs, these local nonprofit educational institutions are just a few of the organizations working to improve the lives and prospects of all students in the Houston area and its surrounding communities.
recipe for success
thCulinary arts may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to extracurricular activities from preschool through fifth grade. But the Houston-based nonprofit Recipe for Success is changing that. Founded in 2005 by Gracie and Bob Cavnar, the nonprofit aims to fight childhood obesity by helping children have a healthy lifestyle every step of the way from garden to plate build a relationship with their food.
“In 2006, the surgeon general advised that the easiest way to better health was to just eat more vegetables,” says Gracie Cavnar. “For the past 17 years, we’ve worked to help people do this by designing, testing and activating our comprehensive vision of programs that have touched and transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people of all ages in Houston and beyond with children.” “
The foundation’s signature program, Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education, takes children ages 4 to 11 through the entire food cycle by collaborating with local chefs, gardeners and nutritionists. Kids learn the basics of nutrition, how to create flavor combinations while cooking, and how to make their own healthy meals and snacks. The benefits go well beyond the immediate experience. Participating children eat up to 30 percent more vegetables, cook more often at home and pay more attention in class than their peers.
With such impact, it’s no surprise that Recipe for Success was endorsed by former President Barack Obama and has spread across the country. Thirteen elementary schools host seed-to-plate nutrition education in Houston, and you can always lobby to have yours added to the list through the foundation’s affiliate program. 4400 Yupon St
HTX item no
With exhibitions and outdoor art thriving throughout the city, it’s no secret that Houston is home to a diverse and robust arts scene. Although art is easy to find throughout the city, accessing quality art education is not as easy for all communities. With a mission to empower Houstonians creatively, Veronica “Roni” Cabrera-Moreno founded HTX Art, an organization that provides arts programs to underserved youth across the city.
Growing up in Eastex-Jensen, Cabrera did not enjoy access to a quality art education in school. Still, she began expressing herself creatively after her artistic father died when she was 12, and later became a working artist herself — she’s the creative force behind several major murals across Houston.
Cabrera started her empowerment initiative in December 2020 with the Art Bus, a school bus she and her family convertedfunction as a mobile art studio. The Bus, which includes stools, easels and art supplies, travels to underserved communities across Houston. More recently, the bus has performed at city events, including Freedom Over Texas, and it raises funds for community outreach, serving in part as a rental vehicle for special events and parties.
In 2021, Cabrera and her family were featured at the Kelly ClarkSon Christmas Special and received $100,000 Donation to expand the work of the Art Bus. With The funding launched Cabrera Art in the HEART, a residential community arts center in Eastex-Jensen that provides creative resources and also serves as a space for families and seniors to express themselves through art. majorAt the center’s grand opening on May 28th Mayor Sylvester Turner proclaimed the date as Art in the HEART Day.
Cabrera continues to provide opportunities for underserved communities by ensuring arts and cultural experiences remain present and accessible throughout Houston. Just keep an eye out for the big yellow art bus in a community near you. 8321 Jensen Dr
writers in schools
As technology continues to change, the world changes with it. An unfortunate side effect of an understandable increase in STEM-based educational programs has been a loss of emphasis on the fundamental importance of literacy – in some cases, limiting the creative spaces for children to express themselves and their experiences.
“As our precious, resilient children adapt to our changing environment and bring their full selves to school with all their potential and vulnerability, we want to welcome them to a creative, innovative place of good,” says Angela Flowers, Writers in the Schools (WITS) Managing Director. “Wonderful creative spaces bring magic and healing and voice and power to our children. It is so important.”
The WITS program, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this fall, helps K-12 students get back to basics. With a mission to revolutionize the literary arts, the program trains students in the art of writing, encourages ongoing practice of storytelling skills, and helps create opportunities for innovation. By emphasizing critical thinking and supporting the work teachers and students are already doing in the classroom, WITS aims to advance the way reading and writing is taught to promote competence, self-expression and enjoyment.
The group’s initiatives, in partnership with the Rice Early Literacy Center, include in-class creative writing residencies, free bi-monthly poetry slams, open mics, workshops and summer creative writing camps in the greater Houston area. Students can also be part of the award-winning MetaFour Houston youth slam poetry team.
Basically, it’s about sharing the power of stories and stories to transport and transform them. Luckily for the Houstonians, we still have our WITS with us, and they’re here to help. 1414 Sul Ross St