Technology and innovation can inspire people to challenge their perspective, join the global conversation, and get involved with providing student opportunities and a more equitable society. That’s why it was important for Salesforce to work with business leaders to launch the Make Change video series on leadership and shared responsibility. Together and across the country, we share stories that shine the spotlight on industry using its platform to make a positive impact in organizations and communities.
As part of the Make Change series, Salesforce is proud to have partnered with Austin City Limits Music Festival, a long-running live music concert production, for a series of interviews with socially-minded non-profit organizations in Austin, Texas that invest in education, the arts, and public mental health services. We hope that these stories give light to the valuable work of these organizations and inspire others to get involved nationwide.
On October 9-10, 2020, we hosted a live event called Commitment to Community, a real-time conversation with tennis legend Andy Roddick, Olympic athlete Raasin McIntosh, and entrepreneurs (and brothers) Thurman and Torrence Thomas. The event was hosted by actor Matthew McConaughey.
Here are some highlights from the two breakout sessions moderated by local influencers in the Austin community. Or, you can skip ahead to watch the video of the live event.
Commitment to community
Tennis legend Andy Roddick sat down with Olympic athlete Raasin McIntosh and entrepreneurs Thurman and Torrence Thomas to discuss their commitment to their communities.
McIntosh is the founder of Raasin in the Sun, which enriches the Austin community through urban beautification. They spoke of the organization’s recent work to uplift struggling artists by commissioning murals focused on mental health, as well as their ongoing work combating environmental racism.
“In the past, all of the Black and Brown people were moved over to the east side where all the flooding issues were happening,” said McIntosh, “So with urban beautification, we start with community gardens, planting trees, looking at a lot of the vacant lots that are on the east side and understanding how to utilize those spaces for community engagement.”
The Thomas brothers started Tankproof, an organization that gives underserved youth free swimming lessons. Most recently they’ve also been serving meals in communities hit hardest by COVID-19.
“Our volunteer base ranges from 16 to 69,” said the Tankproof founder. “There’s something that everybody can do and help make a change in their community.”
Roddick is the founder of Andy Roddick Foundation, which helps put young people on the path to success through afterschool programs and spring and summer break experiences. He recalls how technology helped enable virtual learning during COVID-19 for the kids his program supports.
“It sounds simple enough, ‘go virtual,’” said Roddick, “Well, 70% of our kids and families didn’t have consistent access to a device or internet signal. It’s tough to tell someone to go to virtual learning when they don’t have it. We had full devices for every kid in our program a week later, and that’s a tip of the hat to the giving spirit that you all have seen in Austin, Texas.”
“Technology saved our ability to be able to reach our kids,” added Roddick.
Education is important to student life
Professor at University of Texas at Austin and Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, Victor Sáenz moderated a discussion with College Forward’s CEO, Austin Buchan, and Carlos Uvilla Cruz, an alum of the program. They shared their perspective on how College Forward continues to help more than 15,000 underserved high school students to reach their education goals.
“They helped me get into the university when I thought I couldn’t,” said Cruz, reflecting back to the beginning of his career when he was applying to college.
Education has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, but leveraging Salesforce technology has made it easier to adapt.
“We had to pivot. We took our 100 or so full-time staff and transitioned to a fully remote environment. By partnering with the local Austin Chamber of Commerce and our local school district, we were actually able to enroll more than 1200 students on track to graduate high school in the midst of this pandemic, the vast majority of whom had their plans for college significantly disrupted.”
Buchan enabled Co-Pilot, an information system that scales the innovation built by College Forward by providing coaches and advisors a 360-degree view of their students. Co-Pilot has helped College Forward scale their services to more than 60 organizations around the country to share their expertise and serve more than 400,000 students.
“I saw how much people were willing to help me and the joy you feel when there’s actually someone there to help out. It really makes a difference in your life,” said Cruz, now himself a teacher, “and I want to return the favor to my community.”