Creative Action Celebrates “Lights on Afterschool 2017”

Today is Lights on Afterschool!  Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights on Afterschool is a national initiative designed to inform communities of the importance afterschool programming plays, and to ensure all children have access to quality, affordable afterschool programs.

In honor of this year’s celebration, we’d love to share Creative Action’s Afterschool impact from the 2016-2017 school year.

Creative Action After School programming impact:

At Creative Action, we believe all youth deserve and benefit from high-quality, innovative  programming that teaches them social skills critical to their future success. 

This is why we offer after school programming based on individual financial needs, with payment options including fee-based, sliding scale, and free. We serve 42 campuses each week in Austin, Bastrop, Del Valle, Eanes, and Manor Independent School Districts, reaching 3,000 youth — and with your support, we plan on continuing to expand and serve more in the future.

Program evaluations from 2016-2017 show that after participating in Creative Action out-of-school time (OST) programs:

  • 91% of youth agree they are a better artist because of their program and 82% feel they can use art to express themselves.
  • 88% agree their class has shown them that art can change people in a good way.
  • 83% feel they learned new skills for working with others.
  • 84% feel safe and accepted in the program.
  • 93% say they now stand up for people who are being treated unfairly.
  • 95% are able to see multiple sides to every story.

Most importantly, 95% of Creative Action Afterschool program participants believe they can make a difference in the world — and so do we.

Students in our programs are shining a light on the value of after school programming. And you can help ensure even more youth can participate in high-quality afterschool programming in years to come!

3 ways you can support Lights on Afterschool Day:

1. Tell your friends, family, and neighbors about the importance of afterschool programming.

Though Creative Action isn’t hosting a dedicated Lights on Afterschool event, you can still support Learn All The Time (LATT), our local network committed building a healthy ecosystem of high-quality out-of-school time programs. Additionally, LATT focuses on making these programs accessible for all Central Texas youth, regardless of economic background.

2. Eat tacos — seriously!

Show your support for afterschool programming in true Austin fashion by eating tacos. How much easier could it get?

This month at Mi Madre’s, 50% of sales of their Taco of the Month will support LATT! So spread the word about Creative Action and the importance of after school programming, then bring your friends and family to Mi Madre’s for a philanthropic chow-down.

3. Support Creative Action’s afterschool programming.

According to the Afterschool Alliance, 11.3 million children in the U.S. are unsupervised after school.

Did you know a $1,000 donation to Creative Action pays for six months of high-quality afterschool programming for one child? If you’re more interested in smaller gifts, consider joining our Creative Circle, which provides monthly donations to Creative Action to provide scholarships for our after school programs along with other critical support.

Please consider giving what you can by donating to Creative Action. In turn, we will use your gift to provide children with a safe space to stay after school hours, developmental curriculum that teaches them critical interpersonal skills, and of course, engaging arts programming.

Donate Now!

5 Reasons to Join Us at the 6th Annual Kids’ Ball

It’s almost time for one of our favorite events of the year: The 6th Annual Kids’ Ball! This year’s ball will take place on Saturday, October 28th from 5 to 8:30 p.m. at Central Market on N. Lamar.

The Kids’ Ball is hosted by local band, White Ghost Shivers, who kindly invited Creative Action to join along in bringing the fun. If you’ve never attended, here are five reasons you should join us this year.

1. It’s a great excuse to wear a costume

Not that you need an excuse to dress up, but who doesn’t like to rock their Halloween costume more than just one day a year? We encourage you to don your Halloween best to embrace the full experience (or create a costume at our interactive art station!).

2. Family-friendly activities for all ages

Creative Action will host interactive, arts-based activities from 5 to 7 p.m., including:

  • Costume-making
  • Music and movement exercises
  • Art stations, including wand-making
  • A photo booth
  • Dancing

3. Great music from local legends, White Ghost Shivers

White Ghost Shivers, a five-piece band shaking skeletons since 1999, will play two spooktacular sets from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The band is well-versed in a multitude of genres, including blues, swing, country and jazz, so they’re sure to play something that will get you and your little ones moving.

They’ve also won more than ten Austin Music awards, so don’t miss out on your chance to catch one of Austin’s best local acts!

4. It’s completely free

This is a free, family-friendly Halloween event open to and appropriate for all ages. As is Kids’ Ball tradition, we are grateful to be hosted by Central Market at 4001 N. Lamar Blvd.

5. Have fun while supporting Creative Action

The Kids’ Ball is more than a party — we enjoy the opportunity to engage kids in the arts while also educating parents about Creative Action’s work.

The mission of Creative Action is to spark and support the academic, social and emotional development of young people. Feel free to bring along your friends and family who would benefit from learning more about our work!

There’s no need to RSVP (though you can check out the official Facebook event for a virtual reminder) — just show up ready to have a great time. We hope to see you there!

11 Black poets to read on Black Poetry Day

At Creative Action we value all forms of art, and today we celebrate one of our favorite mediums, poetry. But not just any poetry—today is Black Poetry Day, where we honor past and present black poets and we revel in the importance of black heritage and literacy.

Throughout history, many poets have incorporated their political views and personal thoughts into their poetry, making it a powerful tool for realness, truth-telling, disruption, inspiration, and empathy.

As someone we honor today, Audre Lorde said it well:

“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”

To celebrate the contributions black poets have made, and continue to make, to the richness of American poetry, we asked our staff to submit some of their favorite black poets.

Langston Hughes (Sam Reza)

A poet, fiction writer, and playwright, Langston Hughes is known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America and his work has inspired generations of black poets.

Poem: Harlem


Audre Lorde (Sam Reza)

As a writer, feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde refused to be silent about the civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life.

Poem: Afterimages


Gwendolyn Brooks (Debra Hardy)

As the first Black Pulitzer Prize winner, Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems are beautiful portrayals of urban life.

“She was a South Side poet who did some of her work at the arts center that I wrote about as my masters thesis, and even wrote a poem that became the title of my thesis.”

Poem: An Aspect of Love, Alive in the Ice and Fire


Eve L. Ewing (Marcelo Teson)

“Eve L. Ewing is a Chicago-area poet whose latest work, Electric Arches, is currently taking the poetry scene by storm. She is a young, contemporary artist writing about 21st Century black life. With her fiancé, she just established a scholarship for young people of color to attend a prestigious leadership academy in Princeton over the summer.”

Poem: to the notebook kid


Joe Brundidge (Dawne Thompson)

Local to the Austin area, Joe Brundidge speaks in a cadence that does not break down across barriers of race, age or geography. His recent book, Element 615, is unapologetically romantic and devoid of pretension.

Learn more about Joe Brundidge.


Maya Angelou (Tiffany Ritter)

As one of the best-known black poets, Maya Angelou’s work made black poetry more popular than ever before. In addition to being a poet, Angelou was Hollywood’s first female black director.

Poem: Awaking in New York


Tupac Shakur & Nikki Giovanni (Erin Meyer)

In 2000, famous artists, poets, and celebrities made a tribute album interpreting Tupac Shakur’s poetry—Nikki Giovanni performed “A Rose that Grew from Concrete.”

Poem: The Rose that Grew from Concrete


Lucille Clifton (Florinda Bryant)

Lucille Clifton’s work, known for modern minimalism, revolved around spirituality, womanhood and African-American identity.

Poem: Won’t You Celebrate with Me


Renita Martin (Florinda Bryant)

Renita Martin is a highly-respected, critically acclaimed author, thespian, musician, and producer.

Learn more about Renita Martin.


Ebony Stewart (Florinda Bryant)

Ebony Stewart is a spoken word poet and active artist in the Central Texas slam poetry scene.

“Her works feel like reclaiming every bit of that which has been lost or stolen…her works make you stand up straight.”

Learn more about Renita Martin.  


Amanda Johnston (Florinda Bryant)

“Amanda Johnston’s poems follow you around…you find yourself thinking about them in the car, at the store, on the way to work. Ireally love language that sticks to my bones.”

Learn more about Amanda Johnston.

Staff Spotlight: Meet Our New Site Coordinators

There’s a lot of moving pieces working behind-the-scenes to create the big Creative Action picture.

Site Coordinators are just one of those pieces, but play an important role managing all of our Creative Action After School programs and providing leadership to our Teaching Artists.

While each of our Site Coordinators bring a unique background, skillset, and viewpoints that aide them in their role, there are also certain core qualities we look for when adding new Site Coordinators to the team, including excellent communication skills, empathy, leadership skills, and a mind for social justice.

Site Coordinators are responsible for managing a Creative Action After School program located at an Austin campus and providing leadership to the campus’ team of Teaching Artists. The Site Coordinator also keeps communication flowing between students, Teaching Artists, and parents.

We welcomed three new Site Coordinators to the Creative Action team this year. Estrella and Lise were already members of the Creative Action team as Teaching Artists, while Angela is brand new to our organization.

We sat down with our new Site Coordinators to learn a little bit more about them and the critical role they play.


Estrella was born and raised in Austin and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Theatre and Dance. While most of her work has been in performance, Estrella also enjoys exploring movement and eco-friendly art with students. Above all, Estrella enjoys learning from youth and hopes to help create a kinder world led by artists who care.

Estrella says she has always been an expressive, theatrical person, and upon learning about Creative Action’s Interactive Performances, was overwhelmed with the thought that growing up could have been “much easier and more fun if Creative Action had been around when I was young.”

“School teaches you how the world works, how it came to be, and the many injustices present in various systems, but it tells you the only way to change anything is to grow up and become a part of those systems,” Estrella said. “Creative Action is all about empowering young people with the skills to make change today, right now, and for the rest of their lives.

“Whether it’s learning how to express complicated emotions, resolve conflicts with friends, or organize and mobilize a group of people to take a stand and speak up, I believe that we are helping to bring up the generation that will not only care but have the skills to make lasting change.”

As a Creative Action Teaching Artist, Estrella earned her stripes teaching a wide range of ages 4 through 11. As a Site Coordinator, she says her goal is to inspire her After School team to dream big, empower them to take ownership of their work, and let them know how important they are in the lives of the youth they serve.

“When you care about your work so much, it can be easy to be hard on yourself when things don’t go as planned,” Estrella said. “I try to remind [my Teaching Artists] that while their plans and goals are important, their presence and caring energy is what the students will remember most. I try to make their lives as easy as possible whenever I can so that all of their focus stays on their students.”

Estrella says in addition to supporting her Teaching Artists day in and day out, she also loves having the ability to influence the culture of her campus’ After School program.

“At Becker, the school administration and staff have been beyond welcoming to Creative Action, bringing us into the Becker Bobcat family without hesitation,” Estrella said. “My goal is to serve and honor them to show the students that it takes every member of a community to keep it running smoothly and happily.”

Estrella says her favorite Creative Action activities are the Community in Action Fridays.

“I’ve been planning activities such as scavenger hunts or physical challenges wherein the oldest group serves as helpers and leaders to younger groups as they complete each task,” Estrella said. “It’s wonderful to see them take care of each other, and the smiling faces of the Teaching Artists lets me know they are having just as much fun as the kids! It’s a blast.”


Originally from Canada, Lise Wilson brings a unique suite of skillsets and interests with her to Austin, including a Bachelor of the Arts degree in First Nations Studies/Native Studies with a focus on ethnobotany and deconstructing colonialism, as well as a multitalented background in dance, singing, theatre, and multimedia arts.

Lise has a passion for guiding young people to find their voices and explore their creative selves through the arts. She first experienced Creative Action programming as a parent, then as a Teaching Artist at numerous campuses, and now is honored to be placed at Blanton Elementary as a Site Coordinator. Her long-term goals for this year include tapping into the skills and interests of our students to create meaningful projects, and to have loads of fun along the way.

“What appealed to me about Creative Action is the organization shares the same vision as me about the work: creating frontlines of social change through the youth,” Lise said. “It’s not just about teaching art or drama alone; it’s about affecting social change through the incredibly thoughtful curriculum.”

hough she has experienced Creative Action through a variety of lenses, Lise says she is enjoying her new role as a Site Coordinator as it challenges her by calling on some of the skills and experiences she gained elsewhere.

“I get to wear multiple hats and call on my problem solving and interpersonal skills, as well as my administrative skills,” Lise said. “It’s engaging me in ways that I really enjoy. And as the person now supporting the Teaching Artists, having been on the receiving end first, I know exactly the type of support that is helpful and aim to provide that for them.”

When she’s not working, Lise loves to get her hands dirty by building things, creating gardens, or gathering medicinal plants in wild places. Hiking, swimming, camping, canoeing, singing with friends, and dancing in her kitchen with her kids are some of the ways that she finds peace and joy.


Though Angela is a Texas native, she most recently moved to Austin by way of Los Angeles.

Angela has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Studio Arts as well as a Master’s in Education, providing her with a strong, versatile background in administration and child development. She also received her teaching certification, and taught art at the elementary level for 13 years. In L.A., Angela worked for a nonprofit art school for nearly five years before moving to Austin.

“When I was relocating and found Creative Action, I really loved the social justice aspect of everything they do,” Angela said. “Once I stopped by Creative Action and met the staff, I knew it was a great fit.”

Angela is a Site Coordinator at Cunningham Elementary in South Austin. She says the most enjoyable part of her position is the shift in focus of who she primarily serves.

“This role is a bit different than other roles I’ve had because in the past, I worked one-on-one with students,” Angela said. “But with this role, I get to make strong connections with parents and that’s been the most fun part for me.”

In her free time, Angela enjoys reffing, watching her child skate, hiking with her dogs, painting, and jewelry making.

We’re looking for more creative, caring staff members to join our team in a variety of roles; view our open positions and apply here.

Keep Kids Creative Week: 10 out-of-the-box activities

Children are born with creativity. But now, more than ever, they’re losing their innate ability to think outside of the box at early ages. With more pressure on schools and teachers to focus on teaching skills and knowledge needed to pass tests, many times children are missing the opportunity to develop the creative thinking skills needed in today’s world.

This week is Keep Kids Creative Week, so at Creative Action we’re celebrating by brainstorming some free/inexpensive (and simple!) ways to help promote out-of-the-box thinking in children. When kids think unconventionally, question what’s in front of them, and imagine new scenarios, they can produce amazing things.

Our creative staff have come up with a Top 10 Staff Picks list of ways to engage children’s imagination this week:

  1. Creative compassion activity: Engage your child in thinking about someone who may be feeling sad and could use help or something to cheer them up. Invite your child to help you brainstorm creative ways of lifting their spirits, make a plan, and put it into action. Examples could include recording a personal pep talk video, making a beautiful tactile card, or singing an uplifting song to them. This is a great activity because it engages your child’s creativity and empathy at the same time!
  2. Painting with nature: Bring the outdoors inside with this little project. Have your kids find small things in the yard like rocks, leaves, and pinecones. Then, have them paint the item with their fingers or paint brushes. Simple but so much fun!
  3. Homemade paper: Not only is this experience rewarding because it’s green – children also get a sensory workout with it as well!
  4. One word story: This is an improv game that can be fun for the whole family! Have everyone sit in a circle and tell a story one word at a time – each player provides one word of a sentence. To get things started, you can always start with “Once upon a time…” and let the story unfold from there.
  5. Make homemade watercolors: With just a few ingredients, kiddos can make all the colors their little hearts desire.
  6. Make a music video with the Triller app. It’s free and so much FUN! It automatically edits the video for you. Choose from fun film filters and do as many takes as you like!
  7. Popsicle stick puzzle: An inexpensive, fun activity simple enough for young children to help with.
  8. DIY calm down sensory bottles: These jars offer a quick way to refocus kids and help them manage difficult emotions. They can also be used as great boredom busters like during long car rides or waiting in long lines. Plus, they’re easy to make and your child can pick the items they want to use in their own jar.
  9. “Minute to win it” family game night: Your family will get great quality time AND a huge amount of laughs.
  10. Partner pictures: Start a picture with a few random lines (straight, curved, wiggly). Have your child complete the picture and tell you a story about it.

Do you have some favorite activities that help get those creative juices flowing?