Good kids don’t always have an opportunity to succeed because of circumstances beyond their control, and Friends of the Children has been working to change that for 25 years. The nonprofit will come to Austin in 2018, and Nancy Pollard is helping to make it happen.
Pollard said she learned about Friends of the Children from a friend of hers. "I saw a need, and my friend who discovered this program through her job saw a need and we decided to try and bring it to Austin.”
They had to raise three years of operation funds in three months, more than $1.7 million. Beginning in January, Friends of the Children will be available at three Austin ISD elementary schools: Overton, Rodriguez and Wooten. Paid mentors, or friends, will work with children both at school and outside of school.
“We seek a highly trained professional mentors this is their full-time job they are salaried and they are full-time trained professional mentors who will spend 12 and a half years with these kids,” Pollard said. Friends will spend an average of four hours per week with their kid, and two of those hours during kindergarten through fifth grade will be in the classroom with the child.
Pollard, an attorney, has volunteered as a court-appointed special advocate, and she’s seen first-hand how a program like this can help kids.
"This is mentoring on steroids, CASA advocacy on steroids, you are around for 12 and half years, you are choosing the youth that face the highest risk,” she said.
Kids cannot be kicked out of the program, and 32 kindergartners will be chosen in January. Forty kindergartners will be added to the program in both 2019 and 2020.
“The best part is that we don't have to invent anything, we are taking a 25-year-old evidence based proven model and implementing it in our city and we'll make it Austin specific and we'll make it fit our community and our culture here but we are not recreating anything we already know that this will work,” Pollard said.
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