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Con Mi MADRE hopes expansion to Hays Co. only a start

For years, the Austin nonprofit Con Mi MADRE had looked at expanding its programs, which help Latina students and their mothers prepare for academic success and college readiness.

This year, after winning the top prize of $37,500 at the Philanthropitch nonprofit fast-pitch competition, the group will roll out its expansion plans when it moves into Hays County in the fall. But it will also keep an eye toward further expansion as it moves through a five-month intensive training program called Mission Accelerator that will help it create a business model for growing its programs to other parts of the country.

In recent years, Con Mi MADRE has received calls asking for its services in areas as far-flung as North Carolina, Denver and New York City, proving that a need exists for the group’s expansion, said executive director Teresa Granillo. And it’s received funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a philanthropic group dedicated to helping at-risk youths, to help Con Mi MADRE expand to other places.

The group chose to start small with the planned move to Hays County, where the program will serve 120 sixth-grade girls and their mothers its first year.

Thirty-seven percent of the county is Latino, Granillo said, up from 29 percent in 2000. And the population of students in the county’s schools hovers around 60 percent to 70 percent. Those demographic changes, fueled by population growth in the Austin metro area and the departure of low-income Latinos from the city’s core, where they can no longer afford to live, made the move to Hays a perfect fit, Granillo said.

The San Marcos and Hays school districts have already signed on to host Con Mi MADRE programs at four middle schools and are even putting forth some of the funding.

Every year, the Hays County program will grow by another 120 students as a new sixth-grade class enters into the partner middle schools, Granillo said.

The program will carry those students from that time until they graduate from college providing them with individual counseling, leadership summits, mother-daughter conferences and other activities that aim to help the girls develop academic, social and emotional skills that prepare them for the rigors of higher education, Granillo said.

The expansion’s success in Hays will determine how and when the program will move to another high-promise area: San Antonio. But the nonprofit’s leaders say they hope to come up with a strong financial model for further expansion during the Mission Accelerator program, where they’ll work with business leaders and potential investors.

By the end of the program, the group hopes to have a refined pitch for future investors.

Tara Kirkland, chief programs and services officer with Mission Capital, the group that hosts the Mission Accelerator program, said Con Mi MADRE is a good fit for the training because it has a proven model that could be replicated in other places facing similar struggles with helping young Latina students achieve academic success.

“We know we’re not the only region of Texas and not the only state that will be dealing with these demographic changes,” Kirkland said. “If this is something we can export and have more first-generation Latinas making it to college and through college, what can be more exciting than that?”

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