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For almost 25 years, Austin Community Foundation has acknowledged remarkable volunteer contributions in Central Texas through the Jordan Award. A legacy initiated by Dr. Wylie Jordan, devoted friend and advocate of the Foundation since its establishment in 1977, the Jordan Award has, in recent years, shifted focusfrom honoring individuals to commending local nonprofits that harness volunteer efforts for outstanding outcomes within the community. 

This year, ACF is excited to announce Capital IDEA as the 2023 Jordan Award recipient! Since 1998, Capital IDEA has been contributing to a thriving Central Texas community by providing non-traditional students with access to quality education, helping them secure well-paying jobs in high-demand industries and achieve their full potential. The organization has helped over 2,000 students break the cycle of inter-generational poverty through investing in their education and career advancement. 

How does Capital IDEA help students? 

For those eligible, Capital IDEA supports 100% of the costs associated with higher education, such as tuition, books, and fees. The organization also offers various support services, including dedicated Career Navigators, childcare assistance, and career placement post-graduation. It’s a unique offering in Austin and surrounding areas, making Capital IDEA the sole provider of free, long-term career education for adults with low-income.

This isn’t the only thing that sets them apart; another is their alumni volunteers. Nearly 300 former students have come forward to give back to their diverse community through their time and personal stories of triumph over adversity. About 50 alumni annually volunteer for speaking engagements, advocacy, and mentoring of current studentsone bright example being Connie Castillo. 

Empathy in Action 

Connie Castillo at the Capital IDEA Celebration of Achievements

As an alumni volunteer for Capital IDEA, Connie is well-equipped to understand the challenges current non-traditional students face because she has been one herself. Once a single mom at 15, facing skeptics who doubted her aspirations, she embarked on a journey to provide a stable home for her child. She overcame countless challenges and, with the support of Capital IDEA, pursued a degree as a Dental Hygienist. Capital IDEA didn’t just provide financial support; alumni volunteers and Connie’s Career Navigator offered her guidance and emotional support that proved invaluable.

Volunteers play a crucial role in fostering a sense of belief and determination in students like Connie. They’re able to offer practical advice and encouragement that resonates because they speak from personal experience and deep understanding. Many students face insecurities and challenges deeply ingrained in cultural stigmas that may lead them to quit before they graduate. Yet, the empathy, reassurance and compassion extended by alumni volunteers ignites a renewed commitment within students to persevere in pursuing their dreams. Because of this, Connie’s journey didn’t stop at dental hygiene. Now with four children, in addition to a demanding schedule, she’s enrolled at Texas State University on her way to becoming a dentist! 

Connie speaking on behalf of Capital IDEA at a Central Texas Interfaith meeting

Connie’s story is both a testament to, and authentic example of, the transformative power that she and other alumni volunteers have in the lives of other students who walk similar paths. She continues to passionately share her story with Hays County and City of Kyle officials to secure funding for Capital IDEA, and mentors alumni in Kyle, nurturing future community leaders. She recalled a powerful moment that brought her immense joy, when she spoke on behalf of Capital IDEA at a City Council meeting:

“[My son] was so excited he recorded it… To see [him] light up like that made me feel so happy to know my kids are proud of what I do.” 

How you can support Capital IDEA

/ Spread the word in your community. Capital IDEA aims to build long-lasting relationships with organizations and companies that support their mission. Learn how you can help by referring your clients, employees, students or community groups.

/ Make a donation! As a fellow nonprofit, Capital IDEA is funded solely by the generosity of donors, foundations, local employers and government agencies. Every gift brings them closer to their mission of lifting working adults out of poverty and into living-wage careers.