Carolyn Bogott: Strengthening families, communities

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, June 6, 2023

“Without strong families, we will struggle to have strong children and a strong community.” This is the belief and the purpose that drives the work of Jayne Gibson, executive director of Austin Aspires. 

Gibson’s passion for nurturing children began right here in Austin with her large birth family and in helping with her mother’s home day care. This focus on the family stayed with her while she served in the Marine Corps and later, became a Marine Corps wife, moving from duty station to duty station, both stateside as well as in Okinawa, Japan. 

As a non-traditional student with four children, she earned a bachelors degree in psychology and math, as well as a license to teach elementary education. While in school, Jayne held various positions within education. 

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After earning her teaching license, she became a third grade teacher, with the Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Okinawa. When her husband retired from the Marines, the Gibson family returned to Jayne’s hometown of Austin. Here she taught at Austin High School and Banfield Elementary, before serving as the curriculum coordinator, principal at Woodson Kindergarten Center and Banfield Elementary. With more graduate education, Jayne moved on to work district level jobs in Shakopee and in Rochester.

Today Jayne is ardent about her work for Austin Aspires. 

“This position allows me to tap deeply into my passion and my love of supporting children and families,” she said.

Austin Aspires is nearly 10 years old; however, there are some that are unaware of this important community-building enterprise which came out of the Vision 2020 project. 

Jayne’s enthusiasm for this work is evident as she describes the programming of Austin Aspires for the benefit of our children from “cradle to career.” Jayne emphasizes that the work Austin Aspires does is only possible due to tremendous community partners and gracious donors. Austin Aspires serves as a coordinating body and a one-stop resource for services in our community for the education of the whole child.

In 2022, Austin Aspires staff worked closely with over 800 families to provide access to food support, legal support, transportation services, childcare, medical services, and so much more. Referrals come from the medical clinic, the county, the city, the schools, partner organizations or anywhere the needs of families and children are noticed.

The early years of a child’s life are critical to successful development of the child, so Austin Aspires invests resources in this area. Austin Aspires navigators work tirelessly in the community to connect families with the resources they need to ensure a rich, early childhood experience. This includes supporting early childhood screening (ensuring each child leaves with a school readiness kit of educational materials including a pencil grip, letter and number tracing, and a book), holding periodic meetings for any parent, called Voices Influencing Parenting (VIP), or connecting the family to childcare or other needed resources. 

“It takes a village to raise a child” and Austin Aspires is here to ensure every child in our community knows there is a village that cares about them and wants them to be successful. 

Austin Aspires continues their support of children and families by offering free tutoring, enrichment activities during the summer for boys going into grades 4-8, and by having staff housed in the schools to support learners in grades 5-12. 

Using grant dollars, Austin Aspires coordinates the Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) tutoring program. This free program offers support to learners in grades K through 12. 

The staff of the Aspiring Leaders of Tomorrow (A.L.O.T) program are housed in the schools to ensure that every student graduates on time with a plan for success post high school. The Austin Aspires navigators work with students, parents, staff and community resources to remove obstacles and support each child as needed. Working together, the Hispanic male graduation rate went from 35.9% in 2018 to 71.7% in 2021. There is more work to be done and Austin Aspires and their partners are invested in making a difference.

The Boys of Tomorrow (BOT) Club was the idea of an elementary aged child who wanted something to do during the summer. This summer will be the third summer of the BOT program. During the months of June and July, boys completing third through seventh grade, participate in a program filled with activities to promote fitness, self-awareness, good hygiene, good decision-making, anti-bullying, leadership skills, and career awareness, all combined with lots of fun. This summer there is room for 60 boys to participate.

This is a snapshot of some of the programs that Jayne Gibson loves to help make available for the children and families of Austin. This compassionate woman says that she loves the graciousness of this community and being surrounded by others who want to make a difference for children.

She advises all of us to, “assume the best of every person or situation and operate from a space of grace.” 

Austin thanks you, Jayne Gibson.