AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's Note: A previous version of this story mentioned some of the federal money would go towards AISD's program "Gear Up Austin." This money will go to fund projects similar to Gear Up, but won't actually go into that same program.
New federal funding for Austin ISD schools aims to help narrow equity gaps in the district.
District leaders say the funding would help kids at all campuses be better prepared for their careers after graduation.
Thinking about what you want to be when you grow up can be daunting, but with this funding secured through a direct appropriation by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), students can now see these goals as even more attainable.
"It's certainly my commitment that we begin at pre-K. We go all the way to post-grad. We want everyone in our community to be able to have opportunities," Doggett said.
Doggett said $4 million will go towards creating outdoor learning spaces for elementary students at 36 AISD campuses. The funds will also be used to create services similar to a project called "Gear Up Austin" to get kids in fifth grade and above ready for college or their future careers. The money won't actually go into this project specifically, but will use it on services similar to what's being done in that model.
"All of those are so important to help students find where their interests are and help them develop their post-secondary path," said Corazon Aguilar, program director for Gear Up Austin.
For students at David Crockett Early College High School, this could help narrow equity gaps in the classroom and set students up for success.
"It means a lot to me because I don't come from a wealthy background ... I've been through a lot. So I feel like – and I'm not the only person that has happened to – and kids like this, I feel like it could change a kid's life," Abraham Ortiz, a David Crockett student, said.
Destiny Martinez said she wants to use her own personal struggles to one day represent people like her.
"As a woman of color, like I said, you know, we don't have many of those working in the field. And I know it takes a lot, but I mean, like, there's nothing that I can't handle," Martinez said.
And Junior Coral Suess said it's all about seeing not only her generation, but the next, continue to thrive.
"Not all of us have the exact same experiences and opportunities and being able to provide this for these new incoming students and families is something completely incredible," Suess said.
Doggett and the students also mentioned that the outdoor classrooms for elementary age students will be crucial to provide an opportunity to learn about wildlife and the ecosystem firsthand.