Oak Park's Multicultural Education Center received 5,000 in state funds for its students. (Courtesy Oak Park School District 97)

More than half a million dollars in state funding is coming to several Austin-based community organizations. 

The Westside Branch NAACP, Westside Health Authority and The Peace Corner will divvy up $550,000 in state appropriations secured by state Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th). None of the organizations requested the money, which Ford applied for last year. 

Ford said he sought the appropriations to get community organizations in his district much-needed funds. He added that he hopes to secure additional funds for more groups. 

The Westside Branch NAACP has received $300,000 and the Westside Health Authority $200,000. Fifty thousand dollars has gone to The Peace Corner. Ford said the appropriations were approved this month and the community groups have received the money. Ford stressed that he requested the money specifically for youth educational programs. 

Karl Brinson, president of the Westside NAACP, said its money will be used to expand the organization’s ACT-SO program. Sponsored by the national NAACP, ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics) targets high school students. 

 Brinson said the Westside Branch will look to recruit more students and adult mentors for the program, which promotes student achievement in math, science and the arts. NAACP chapters also hosts local ACT-SO competitions where students compete before going on to participate in the national competitions held every summer. Brinson said the Westside Branch is now gearing up for its local competition later this month. 

Ford also secured more than $100,000 for organizations in neighboring Oak Park. Brinson said students who attend high school there also participate in the West Side ACT-SO program. Oak Park’s public library received $100,000 in funding; the community’s Multicultural Education Center secured $35,000. 

For Austin and greater West Side, Ford said the children are suffering due to a lack of resources. Austin, he noted, has seen schools shuttered and its only YMCA close within the last year. Because of that, community organizations like the Westside NAACP have to pick up the slack and need money to do so, Ford said. 

But with the state still facing a financial crunch, Ford said it was tough getting this money for the groups.

“Some individuals believe we should stop spending and pay down our bills, but our communities are hurting. We should spend money where it’s needed,” Ford said. “We have to empower the West Side, especially our kids. We need to broaden the net and bring in more youth, and strengthen those programs that already exist. 

“Austin is struggling with the schools closing,” Ford added. “There’s a lack of a YMCA and a lack of programs for kids to go to college and better themselves. In Austin, the kids are at-risk and we have to do something to keep them from becoming at-risk.”

For the Westside NAACP, Brinson stressed that the money couldn’t have come at a better time. 

“It’s great to get this resource to be able to do the kind of things you want to do,” he said. “It’s a great blessing. It let’s you know that people do care, that you’re not doing things alone and fighting alone.” 

If you go

The Westside Branch NAACP hosts a “Know Your Rights and Resources” conference Saturday April 12, at Whitney Young High School. See Across Austin on pages 11-12 for details. 

To learn more

  • Westside Branch NAACP’s ACT-SO competition
  • 9 a.m. Saturday April 26 (registration at 8:30 a.m.), at UIC Student Center, 750 S. Halsted; (Gold Medal winners will attend the national competition in Las Vegas)
  • For more information about workshops for the local and national competition: 773-261-5890; or www.cwsactso.org
  • www.naacp.org/programs/entry/act-so

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

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