You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

After 33 years, River City Youth Foundation a mainstay in Dove Springs

When the River City Youth Foundation first started its work in the Dove Springs neighborhood of Southeast Austin 33 years ago, kids in the area were faced with high levels of drugs, gang activity and violence.

Mona Gonzalez, the group’s founder and executive director, sought to create a safe place for them to learn and grow.

“This organization was created to counteract the negative influences and engage kids all the time,” Gonzalez said. “I realized there had to be an infrastructure so that everyone who wishes to share their talent, their skills and their love for the community could go.”

Over the next three decades, Gonzalez built a foundation that offers mentoring, substance abuse prevention, technology education for parents and children, health and wellness programs, college and career preparation and community development services. For her efforts, Gonzalez is the final person profiled in an American-Statesman Hispanic Heritage Month series on Latinos in philanthropy.

Her passion for philanthropy, she said, started at a young age with the example set by her grandparents. They weren’t philanthropists in the traditional sense of raising money or volunteering, but they embodied charity in their attitudes in lifestyle, she said, taking to heart the adage of “Mi casa es tu casa” (My home is your home).

When she first started the River City Youth Foundation in 1983, Gonzalez said, she envisioned a place where children in the neighborhood would feel safe and have access to resources other children around the city had. In the mid-90s, the group built its headquarters on South Pleasant Valley Road, which became a home base for many in the community.

The facility acts as a community center, a recreation center and a school for teaching students and parents English and computer skills. Since the group’s founding, Gonzalez estimates it has helped about 250,000 people at the place many neighbors call “La escuelita” (The little school).

Neighborhood families say their toddlers count the days until their fifth birthday when they can begin accessing the programs at the foundation.

Maria Reyes, a neighborhood resident, said all her kids have benefited from the group’s services. Her eldest, 16-year-old Bianca, participated in the group’s coding academy and has developed the confidence to apply to college in a few years, she said. Reyes herself learned how to use computers at the group to keep up with her daughter’s schoolwork through its TechComunidad program which teaches parents the basics of electronics.

“I’ve gained so much through the help of River City,” she said. “Not just in learning how to use computers but in the way my kids think. My oldest is very focused and confident about going to college.”

For Gonzalez, these reactions are what the group is all about. But she realizes her work is not finished. Many kids in the area still struggle with family stability and a need to feel accepted and educated, she said.

“The needs that existed 33 years ago are still here today,” she said. “Children need a place that is safe and accepting. We’ll never stop working toward that objective.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

CAREFUL WITH SCAMS: IRS warns of summertime tax schemes
CAREFUL WITH SCAMS: IRS warns of summertime tax schemes

Even though tax season has ended for most taxpayers, the IRS said in a press release Monday that tax-related scams continue across the nation. “We continue to urge people to watch out for new and evolving schemes this summer,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in the release. “Many of these are variations of a theme, involving fictitious...
Austin school board calls for $1.05 billion November bond package
Austin school board calls for $1.05 billion November bond package

The Austin school board Monday night called for a $1.05 billion bond package to be placed before voters in November. The bond projects, rolled into one proposition, total $1.13 billion, but trustees plan to apply $83.8 million in projected leftover bond funds and possible land sales of East Austin schools to reduce the total package amount. Despite...
Austin, other cities spar with state, DOJ in ‘sanctuary cities’ hearing
Austin, other cities spar with state, DOJ in ‘sanctuary cities’ hearing

Lawyers from numerous Texas cities sparred with the state and the U.S. Department of Justice on Monday in the first hearing in their attempts to upend Senate Bill 4, the so-called sanctuary cities ban, before it can be implemented. The hearing, held in a federal courtroom in San Antonio, brought forward many previously filed arguments, claiming that...
Arkansas ruling could affect Texas gay marriage benefits case
Arkansas ruling could affect Texas gay marriage benefits case

Arkansas cannot exclude the names of same-sex spouses from their children’s birth certificates, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that gay marriage advocates said should be a wake-up call for the Texas Supreme Court. Texas’ highest civil court is preparing to rule on a challenge by opponents of gay marriage who want to stop...
Austin kidnap suspect foiled by Facebook, caught at Iron Maiden show
Austin kidnap suspect foiled by Facebook, caught at Iron Maiden show

If you’re going to listen to Iron Maiden’s advice and “Run to the Hills” to avoid police, just don’t post it on Facebook. An Austin man who was wanted by police on a kidnapping charge got caught by the Bexar County sheriff’s office Saturday at an Iron Maiden concert in San Antonio after a friend of his posted images...
More Stories