Hispanic PR Blog: What is Southwest Key Programs and what makes your organization unique compared to other Hispanic Nonprofit Organizations?
John Turner: Southwest Key Programs is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in Austin, Texas. Founded in 1987, Southwest Key operates 55 programs in 6 states, serving approximately 6,000 children per day, and was recently ranked #4 among the Top 25 Hispanic Nonprofits in America by Hispanic Business Magazine in May 2009. Southwest Key Programs has a staff of over 1,000 employees with the goal to improve the quality of life for children through education, community development, youth and family services.
Southwest Key Programs has grown to become one of the largest Hispanic-led nonprofit organizations in the United States. Dr. Sánchez is proud to have built one of the most diverse nonprofit agencies in the country, where 93 percent of Southwest Key’s employees, including most top managers, are people of color.
HPRB: Tell us about your organization’s history.
JT: Southwest Key was founded in 1987 by Dr. Juan J. Sánchez with a specific goal: to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth and their families. As such, Southwest Key’s mission is to open the doors of opportunity so young people can achieve their dreams.
From those early days starting in a San Antonio basement with just a few employees, Southwest Key’s scope of work has since expanded to over 1,000 employees in 6 states. This includes our East Austin Children’s Promise that provides an integrated system of educational, social service and community-building programs to help all children achieve their full potential. Southwest Key’s services also include a college preparatory charter school, providing alternative education programs and schools throughout Texas, emergency shelters, as well as starting several social enterprise businesses.
HPRB: Does your organization have a website address, if so, what is it?
JT: Our website is http://swkey.org
Our blog is http://southwestkey.wordpress.com
HPRB: How is the Southwest Key Programs involved in bettering the lives of Latinos?
JT: Southwest Key was originally established to provide community-based treatment programs and education for youth as an alternative to incarceration. As Southwest Key Programs has grown, we have realized that the key to prosperity for many is to have a quality education. The need for quality educational opportunities for Latinos is clear, and we believe that most current public education systems have failed to fully engage much of the Latino population.
We are trying to change that dynamic by providing educational options that give our kids a chance to succeed, and that break the cycle of poverty. By taking this approach, we hope to better the lives of all children and their families.
Our El Centro de Familia now serves as a launching point for various community initiatives focusing on job creation, educational services, social enterprises and community empowerment.
HPRB: Do you have any specific programs that help the Austin Hispanic community?
JT: Southwest Key’s CEO Dr. Juan Sánchez’s drive and commitment to assisting underserved populations, led the organization to move its headquarters to the impoverished Govalle/Johnston Terrace neighborhood in East Austin, and to commit the agency to undertake its East Austin Children’s Promise, that will transform the community through the provision of quality education and family support services. This community has long been identified as underserved and has suffered from chronic economic distress. This predominantly minority neighborhood consists of an 81.6 % Latino and 10.4 % African-American population and is plagued with high rates of unemployment, poverty, and high school dropout.
Our El Centro de Familia offers employment support, leadership development and community organizing activities, health and wellness education, homeownership services, after-school activities for youth like the Boys & Girls Club, and our very own middle school, the East Austin College Prep Academy. We are proud to offer these services that help the Austin Hispanic community.
HPRB: How have you been partnering with local businesses and organizations?
JT: Partnerships and collaborations are essential and help us to provide a broader range of services for the communities and populations we serve. Community collaboration and access to local providers are essential components in the development of a successful community-based facility and programming. Southwest Key has a strong history of working in partnership with service organizations, systems agencies, community and faith-based organizations.
HPRB: Do you have any corporate sponsors? If so, who are they and how do you partner with them?
JT: Yes, we are fortunate enough to enjoy considerable corporate support, in fact too many to list here. Please visit
http://www.swkey.org/Funders.html for a comprehensive list.
HPRB: What are some ways that corporate partners can get involved in sponsoring or supporting Southwest Key Programs?
JT: There are numerous ways for corporations to engage with, and sponsor Southwest Key Programs. From helping to fund our new social enterprise complex we are building in East Austin, to providing backpacks filled with school supplies for the students at our East College Prep Academy. We also hold an annual school golf tournament fundraiser called “Fore the Kids” in October, which allows various sponsorship opportunities for any corporation. We are also in need of volunteers year-round to mentor and support students at our school. The giving of time is as important as financial help.
HPRB: How do you select organizations that you provide grants to?
JT: At this time we do not provide financial grants to any organizations, although we do help several local community organizations by donating employees’ time, materials, space and other resources.
HPRB: What, if any, has been the biggest challenge your organization has faced in light of the current economy and how are you coping?
JT: We are grateful to be coping in this economy. The current economic situation has affected more and more children and families across our country, and has highlighted the need for our work more than ever. Southwest Key Programs has aggressively sought out a diverse funding base and pursued new revenue streams, which have allowed us to remain stable in this instable economy. We are continually challenged to raise sufficient funds to provide for the many needs of our community and to continue to grow our infrastructure to maintain efficient operations.
HPRB: How can individuals, companies or organizations become involved with the Southwest Key Programs?
JT: If anyone is interested in learning more and getting involved with Southwest Key Programs, please contact our Development Director, Victoria Gutierrez at email@example.com or 512.462.2181