Deep in the Heart of Texas
A Personal Blog of Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott
Friday, October 16, 2015
One of my favorite events is this weekend - the Texas Book Festival! If you are in the Austin area this Saturday and Sunday, I encourage you to attend. Here is information about the Festival from its website:
The 2015 Texas Book Festival will be held October 17 – 18, 2015. The Festival is from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Sunday. The Texas Book Festival Weekend is free and open to the public and takes place in Austin, Texas, at the State Capitol and surrounding grounds. One of the largest and most prestigious literary festivals in the country, the annual Texas Book Festival features 250+ nationally and critically recognized authors, 20+ venues including the State Capitol, 80+ exhibitors, live music, local food trucks, family activities, and countless opportunities to meet authors and fellow book lovers.
Thursday, October 15, 2015
Today, National Hispanic Heritage Month wraps up, but of course, the influence of Hispanic heritage can be felt throughout Texas no matter what month it is. The roots of Texas history – and my own personal history – are deeply influenced by Spanish heritage.
One way to see the influence that Hispanic Heritage has had on Texas is to travel around our state and visit the Spanish Missions. Back in May during Texas Travel and Tourism Week, I posted a blog about some of the historical places you can visit to learn about and see firsthand the influence that Hispanic heritage has had on our state. You can see that blog by clicking here.
Whether it’s our beautiful missions, our cuisine, our music, or our values, there are many reasons to celebrate the influence and contributions that Hispanic heritage has had on Texas, and recognize the important ways it has helped shape our history and culture.
Photo courtesy of the San Antonio CVB.
Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Today, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I joined HHSC Commissioner Chris Traylor, members of the Texas Legislature, breast cancer survivors, and others at the Texas Capitol for a bipartisan Breast Cancer Awareness Rally. Raising awareness is such an important step in reaching our ultimate goal, which is to end breast cancer. The more we can all do together to share information and hope, the more Texas women we can help, and the more lives we can save. Thank you to those who attended the rally today for helping us celebrate survivors, honor the memory of those whom we have lost to breast cancer, and raise awareness about a cause that we are all so passionate about.
Monday, October 12, 2015
I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Texas Conference for Women several times, and it is one of my favorite events of the year. I find it to be enriching, educational, and inspiring – and thousands of women agree, because the Conference always has an enormous crowd. There are so many opportunities for women to network and connect, grow professionally and personally, and be inspired. Whether you are looking for career advancement, personal development, health and wellness, or to pitch your business idea in hopes that it will become the next big thing, the opportunities are endless! The 2015 Texas Conference for Women is this Thursday, October 15th, and tickets are still available. To learn more about the Conference – including speakers, exhibitors, panels, book signings, roundtables, and more, visit http://www.txconferenceforwomen.org/. I hope to see you there on Thursday!
Monday, October 05, 2015
On September 21, Greg and I hosted a reception at the Governor’s Mansion honoring the 2015 recipients of the Governor’s Volunteer Awards. One of the nine award recipients was Texas A&M University’s The Big Event, which was awarded the 2015 Higher Education Community Impact Award. At this weekend’s Texas A&M football game, Greg and I participated in a presentation once again congratulating Texas A&M for this award. Greg and I are so proud of the positive impact A&M students are having on their community through The Big Event. The Big Event is embedded in the culture of Texas A&M students, and is just another example of Texas A&M's commitment to service. In 2015, over 22,000 students volunteered to assist local residents with painting, yard work, cleaning, and various tasks, completing over 2,500 jobs through The Big Event’s one-day service blitz, which is A&M’s way of saying thank you to the surrounding community. Now we are the ones saying “thank you” to Texas A&M!
Pictured here with Greg and I is Marti Young, Texas A&M President Michael Young, Chris Bugbee ’98 and COO of the OneStar Foundation, Mark Lutz ’16 and 2016 Director of The Big Event, and Katie Edwards '16 and 2016 Assistant Director of The Big Event.
Friday, October 02, 2015
Yesterday I addressed the United Way of Williamson County Community Impact Summit on Education. The summit focused on population growth in Williamson County and how it impacts education for students in the local communities. A good education is the ladder we give our children to help them reach their dreams. Every Texas student deserves to have access to the best education possible. I am thankful for those in the Williamson County community for uniting and working together to figure out what you can do to ensure that your children thrive and reach their full potential as students.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
September is National Literacy Awareness Month. To help celebrate it, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation held a “Life Without Literacy” Luncheon last week, and I was honored to have the opportunity to attend and address the luncheon. We also heard from Byron Pitts, Emmy Award-winning journalist and ABC chief national correspondent, who spoke of dealing with literacy problems as a child. It is so easy to take for granted the incredible gift we were given when we are taught to read. When a person learns to read, it unlocks the door to opportunity. I’m so appreciative of the efforts of the Barbara Bush Literacy Foundation to address the literacy needs of not only children, but also adults, in the Houston area.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Today I was in Houston attending a Governor's Small Business Forum titled "Women Exceeding Limits." The forum was hosted by the Texas Governor’s Office, the Texas Workforce Commission, the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance, and the Houston Galveston Women’s Business Center and focused on the important role that women-owned small businesses play in the success of Texas's economy. I was honored to be there today and help hand out the 2015 Governor’s Small Business Awards and honor the recipients.
Texas is the country’s premier state for doing business, and women have been leaders of that success. Women-owned businesses are crucial to our state’s economy, and play an important role in the future of Texas. Today we are honoring women who are truly exceeding limits. Congratulations to the winners, and thank you for all that you do to make Texas the model for doing business.
Monday, September 28, 2015
I am honored to join 24 other First Spouses as an Honorary Chair of CASAColumbia Family Day 2015. CASAColumbia – the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University - is a national nonprofit research and policy organization focused on improving the understanding, prevention and treatment of substance use and addiction. And Family Day is a national movement to celebrate parental engagement as an effective tool to help keep America’s kids substance free. According to CASAColumbia, research shows that children with hands-on parents are far less likely to smoke, drink or use other drugs. As a mother and former teacher, vice principal and principal, I know that parental engagement matters in helping prevent substance use in our kids. It can be as simple as sitting down to eat dinner as often as possible or asking your children about their day while driving home from school – every little bit counts. Greg and I always made attending Audrey’s school activities and spending as much time together at home a priority. The key is being engaged in your children’s lives. For more ideas about how to celebrate Family Day, download CASAColumbia’s Family Day Parent Toolkit. Remember: Be Involved. Stay Involved. Let’s all join together to commit to spending quality time with our sons and daughters. Happy celebrating!
Friday, September 25, 2015
Last night I attended the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Texas Regional Office's annual Texas Heroes for Children Gala. Greg and I were given the 2015 Texas Heroes for Children Award, and it was truly an honor. I am particularly proud of the things Greg has accomplished to make Texas the national leader in the crusade to end child abuse and exploitation. Special Agent Ryan Kindell of the Texas Department of Public Safety also received the 2015 Texas Heroes for Children Award, and several other Texas law enforcement officers who have made protecting Texas children a priority were also honored last night. Greg and I are so appreciative of their service to our state. We are also grateful to have the Texas Regional Office of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a partner in that crusade. Thank you for your commitment to protecting Texas children.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
September is Hunger Action Month, and I want to do all I can to raise awareness about – and end – the problem of hunger in Texas. An important partner in accomplishing a hunger-free Texas is our food banks. There are 21 food banks across Texas, and I’ve visited several over the last few months to learn about the ways they are helping their fellow Texans in need. These food banks are part of a unified, statewide effort to end hunger in Texas that is led by an organization called Feeding Texas. According to Feeding Texas, one in six Texas households is food insecure, meaning either hungry or at risk of hunger. But thanks to our food banks, millions of Texans each day are getting the help they need through numerous programs. To find the food bank in your area, visit Feeding Texas, and if you are able, donate a dollar or two, an hour or two of your time, or a can or two of food. Every little bit helps. However it is you can help, I encourage all Texans to join our food banks and me in our quest to end hunger in Texas.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Last night, Greg and I hosted a reception and awards ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion honoring the recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Awards. With the help of the OneStar Foundation, we honored nine awardees from across Texas for their significant contributions to their communities and fellow Texans through service and volunteering. I believe we are each called to service, and these philanthropic Texans have enthusiastically answered that call. Greg and I are appreciative of their service and thankful that they are sharing so much of themselves to help their fellow Texans succeed.
The recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Awards are:
Governor’s Lone Star Achievement Award: 1sg (retired) Will Williams, Round Rock
For almost twenty years, Will Williams has served the community of Round Rock through numerous organizations, including Sertoma, Lion’s Club, Round Rock Foundation, Water for Africa, Heroes Night Out, El Amistad, and Blue Star Mothers. Thanks to Will’s leadership, over $1 million was raised for the Round Rock Foundation to benefit local charities.
First Lady’s Rising Star Award: Cullen Corr, Dallas
Cullen Corr began volunteering at age 13 as an after school tutor for underprivileged kids at Family Gateway in Dallas. He soon went on to found a Texas nonprofit called Kids Helping Kids (KHK), which today is powered by student leaders from eleven Dallas area high schools. Hundreds of KHK volunteers affect the lives of thousands of at-risk and homeless children in Dallas by providing school supplies, books, tutoring, and raising funds to benefit youth and children in need.
Partners in Education Award: Teach for America - Rio Grande Valley
Teach for America of the Rio Grande Valley (TFA-RGV) was established in 1991 to provide access to the highest quality classroom instruction and learning opportunities for students in minority and low-income communities in the Valley. TFA-RGV teachers are also AmeriCorps members who serve over 14,000 children and youth annually by leading in the classroom, sponsoring honor organizations, sports activities, and service projects in the community, all while instilling in their students the importance of giving back.
Service to Veterans Award: Military Veteran Peer Network Houston
Military Veteran Peer Network Houston at Mental Health America of Greater Houston is led by over two dozen veteran volunteers using a peer-led holistic community based approach to address the specific needs of Harris County veterans. They help veterans and their families reintegrate into the community, enroll in school, obtain employment, and navigate community assistance programs. They also provide innovative, comprehensive training and peer support to Harris County Veteran Treatment Courts.
Higher Education Community Impact Award: The Big Event, Texas A&M University
Thirty-three years ago, The Big Event started as a project for students at Texas A&M University in College Station to say thank you to the surrounding community through a one-day service blitz. In 2015, over 22,000 students volunteered to assist local residents with painting, yard work, cleaning, and various tasks, completing over 2,500 jobs. In a testament to the power of service, The Big Event has spread to 110 other schools across the country, and internationally. The Big Event is embedded into the undergraduate culture of Texas A&M students, many of whom continue their civic engagement into their professional and personal lives wherever they reside.
Corporate Community Impact Award: ExxonMobil Pro Bono Program, Houston
ExxonMobil lawyers have been providing free legal service in Houston and other communities for more than 50 years. During 2014, 170 ExxonMobil law volunteers devoted more than 3,200 recorded hours of pro bono service through clinics for veterans, taxes and wills, and citizenship. They partnered with groups such as Catholic Charities, Kids in Need of Defense, Tahirih Justice Center, Houston Area Women’s Center, and United Way’s Nonprofit Connection. ExxonMobil’s commitment to community service is making a huge impact in the lives of people in need.
Community Leadership Award: Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas
Founded in 1994 with a membership of 13 local centers, today the membership roster includes 69 developing and established centers in large urban cities as well as in small rural communities. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) were established to minimize the impact of trauma to child victims by bringing together in one location district and county attorneys, law enforcement officials, and medical and mental health professionals to form multidisciplinary teams. Last year, Texas CACs served almost 40,000 children.
Senior Corps Community Impact Award: Ed Boyer, Dallas & Collin Counties
Ed Boyer has been a volunteer with the RSVP of Dallas and Collin Counties since 1998. Ed founded the White Rock Center of Hope Resale Shop and manages approximately 250 community volunteers. The shop has raised over $3 million. With the support of over fifty churches and civic organizations, more than 400,000 people in over 140,000 families have received over 3 million pounds of food, 814,000 clothing items, and $1.2 million in financial aid from White Rock Center for Hope, all thanks to the vision of RSVP volunteer Ed Boyer.
AmeriCorps “Make a Difference” Award: JoAnn Gama, Weslaco
JoAnn Gama is a former AmeriCorps member and Teach for America (TFA) alumna. A first generation college graduate, JoAnn founded IDEA Academy, a state-approved charter school for grades 4th through 8th in Donna, Texas. Fifteen years later, IDEA has become a network of 44 schools throughout Texas. Today, IDEA Public Schools is recognized as one of the highest performing charter school networks in the nation.