“Through a combination of professional counseling, mentoring, tutoring, hot suppers, nutritious feeding and parent support groups, we’ve been able to reach over a quarter of a million people,” said Mona Gonzalez, the founder and executive director of the River City Youth Foundation. The Austin agency is committed to helping the people of the Dove Springs Neighborhood to live safe, healthy and prosperous lives.
The Dove Springs neighborhood is located on the southeast side of Austin, wedged between I-35 and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. With approximately 36,000 residents, the area has the largest Hispanic population in Austin and is considered one of the three epicenters for Hispanic growth, according to the City of Austin Demographer’s office.
The foundation began as a grassroots organization working directly with clients in the city’s housing projects.
“A couple decades ago, we were operating out of recreation centers, churches any venue we could find to do our tutoring, our programs for the children,” said Gonzalez.
In 1998, a two-acre plot of land was donated by David and Gayanne Vandam. Page Southerland Page used the land to build the youth center still on the grounds today. Click here to see photos of our Success Center.
“We have a tremendous amount of stability in the Dove Springs community because we’re here on this beautiful park land, providing an opportunity to engage the community in a consistent way,” Gonzalez said.
The area where River City Youth Foundation now stands used to be a haven for drugs, gang activity and violence. The agency seeks to address those issues brought on by a lack of education and poverty through seven core areas of service. Through community outreach and events, the foundation has mobilized the neighborhood to help combat street crime.
The staff considers the children ‘at promise,’ not at risk. Each child has the potential to be a leader. With educational support and strong role models, children can embrace the promise of their lives and exceed beyond expectations.
RYCF also celebrates fathers and mothers as role models. Through community-building events like the Father’s Day Parade, the neighborhood beams with pride in support of their children. Evidence of community pride can also been seen through home, street and neighborhood improvements.
Over the years, the foundation has been able to reach thousands of children and their families. As the area continues to grow, the foundation is dedicated to expanding its programs to better serve the needs of the growing community and help the area be prepared for the future of our society.
“What the future holds for Dove Springs is a revitalized community where youth and families are actively engaged in strategic planning to make this community safer, healthier and more prosperous,” said Gonzalez.