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Little Longhorn ‘seniors’ headed for middle school

Giving News

Little Longhorn seniors headed for middle school

By Jamey Smith

With proud families and administrators cheering them on, the University of Texas Elementary School’s first class of “seniors” graduated in a late May ceremony at the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center on the UT campus. The 40 students are the first wave of Little Longhorns to leave the public charter school, which opened in 2003 to educate pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade children living in East Austin; 59 percent come from economically disadvantaged households.

School principal and CEO Ramona Treviño says it’s been “amazing” to watch her students grow over the past five years — socially, emotionally, and academically. After only two years of Texas Academic Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) testing, UT Elementary was awarded the highest rating, Exemplary, from the Texas Education Agency last year. The school has thrived, Treviño says, because of strong participation from parents and generous support from the community.

Philanthropic gifts in the past year alone exceeded $227,000 from individuals, foundations, and corporations. With these gifts, the school has been able to provide professional development for its teachers, after-school tutoring, field trips, and summer school, all of which are integral to its success in giving students individualized instruction. A campaign is under way to raise the funds needed to construct a permanent building for the school. That building will replace the temporary facilities in which it is currently housed.

UT Elementary’s partnership with The University of Texas makes it the only school of its kind in Texas. It applies research and expertise from the Colleges of Education and Communication, the Schools of Nursing and Social Work, the Department of Human Ecology, and other academic units directly to the classroom. The school provides an educational alternative for economically disadvantaged families, serves as a training and development site for UT students, and is fast becoming a model educational program that can be replicated in inner-city schools throughout Texas and the United States.

Most Little Longhorns will be the first members of their family to attend college, whether they end up at UT or another university. Gregory Vincent, UT’s vice president for diversity and community engagement and chairman of UT Elementary’s management board, says the school’s excellent TAKS test results “demonstrate that when students are provided the right tools and learning environment, they can achieve a high level of success.”

Visit the UT Elementary website to learn more about the school and its capital campaign. For further information, contact development director Carly Huston at chuston@austin.utexas.edu or 512-232-4260.

In the photo above, UT Elementary fifth-grade teacher Mary Ledbetter celebrates with some of her students.

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