“Women coming together to make a difference.” This statement sits atop the Seeds of Strength (SoS) website, a giving circle based in Georgetown, Texas. It is a strong statement that perfectly describes the core of who SoS is, and what they’re all about. This group of women, ranging in ages from the mid-20s to well into their 90s, made a choice to pool their resources to make a difference in their community. Since their founding, SoS has awarded 92 grants, totaling $1,538,000 to local non-profit organizations that provide community enriching services in Georgetown.

This generous giving circle is the result of a small group of women with a passion to make a positive impact in their community. According to Lexi Elliott, Member and Former SoS Board Chair, “They realized that the needs of Georgetown would continue to increase as the city grew, so they wanted to create a way for women in the community to learn more about the needs of our Georgetown neighbors and come up with a democratic process for pooling resources and allocating them to non-profits.”

Since 2012, SoS has invested $95,000 in Capital IDEA’s mission. This funding has been used to help Georgetown students attend Austin Community College and provides other resources to assist them throughout their educational journey and helps them land a job in their field. The mission of Capital IDEA is very meaningful to Lexi: “I believe that the benefits to our community are truly immeasurable when you help an underserved community to attain the education and training that they need to pursue a career. The long-term benefits to the individual, their family, and their personal network are compounded and our entire city benefits.”

The significance of SoS’s investment, for Capital IDEA, is how it helps offset the increased cost of Georgetown residents. As Executive Director, Steve Jackobs, reminds us, “Because the city of Georgetown is outside the Austin Community College Taxing District, tuition for these students is significantly higher than their in-district counterparts.” The higher tuition rate makes it difficult for individuals like Lissette Padro, a Capital IDEA graduate from Georgetown, to attend college without assistance.

Lissette Padro with her 3 kids at her daughter’s graduation.

Lissette’s story is one of hope and serves as a beautiful example of how a community of people can provide the support needed to rise from a difficult situation. Lissette was a victim of domestic violence, which led to divorce. Her life as a single mom to three kids, with no child support, was made more difficult because a lack of education limited her to low-wage jobs. Lissette knew she needed a better paying job to provide for her kids. Capital IDEA was the opportunity she needed to make that a reality. Going to school as a single parent with three kids wasn’t easy, but she was determined. With a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, and the support of her Capital IDEA Career Navigator, she was able to make the grades needed to be accepted into the highly competitive Dental Hygienist program at Austin Community College, and eventually graduate.

Lissette is one of many examples of Seeds of Strength’s life-changing impact and generosity. Without their support, Capital IDEA would not be able to help as many students in Georgetown. Thank you SoS for your support, passion, and dedication to improving communities. For more information about Seeds of Strength, you can visit their website at:

If you’d like to support Capital IDEA, and empower your neighbors with educational opportunities, click here to make a donation, and follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@captial_idea_atx) to share our message with your own community.

Join Our Team
Capital IDEA is looking for an experienced case manager (3+ years of experience working with adults receiving direct services and/or high school students transitioning into college). The Career Navigator provides case management for about 80-100 adult students and guides them through the successful completion of their academic plan in preparation for job placement. To be considered, applicants’ resumes should clearly include a track record of teamwork and student success. Please highlight in your cover letter and resume the skills you’ve developed to help students succeed, and how you’ve contributed to effective teams in the past.

About Capital IDEA
At Capital IDEA, we’ve built a diverse and dedicated team that shares a passion for our mission. We aim to empower our income-eligible neighbors with training and education so that they can fill a critical need in our community for caring, skilled, and highly motivated workers. Since our founding in 1998, more than 1,600 Central Texans have launched new careers and secured a brighter future for themselves and their families. When you join our team, you’ll have high expectations to meet and big goals to work towards. You’ll also have a team who supports you, and you’ll know you’re making a difference.

To Apply
Start by reading the full job description and qualifications: Career Navigator Job Description PDF »
Next, email resume and cover letter with salary requirements to Program Manager, William Askew, Jr.
Deadline to apply: Friday, July 24, 2020
Salary range: $44-46,000


Dear Friends,

As the Chair of Capital IDEA’s Board of Directors, I’m pleased to share our 2019 Annual ReportRead Now ». In previous years, this would have arrived in your inbox in April, but this year has been different for us all.

As I revisit 2019 through the lens of an annual report, I see an organization I am proud to be a part of — it is steady, stable, and thoughtfully charting a course for future growth.

Fast forward to today, 2020 has challenged us all in new ways. I’m proud of how Capital IDEA’s staff have risen to the challenge of serving our students amid a global pandemic, reinventing, and retooling our core program, as needed. Our funders, partners, and community of supporters have met our needs and the needs of our students in countless ways.

We’ve long believed that Central Texas is a special place, a pool of talent, intelligence, compassion, and potential. But we didn’t know the depths until this year. I invite you to spend some time with our 2019 Annual Report. Enjoy the backward look and know that the 2020 Annual Report will attempt to convey all of our gratitude to you — the amazing, unshakable community of Central Texas. We are steadily moving forward for you and because of you.


Melynda Caudle
Board Chair, Capital IDEA
President and CEO, Cooper Consulting Company

2019 Annual Report PDF – Read Now »


Tania Santiago-Kelly will do whatever it takes, going to extraordinary lengths to reach her goals and provide for her family. Over 14 years ago, Tania was living in Mexico with her son. In order to make ends meet, she worked three jobs. One of which paid her five dollars per day, with no overtime. She could work over 10 hours and still only bring home five dollars. For Tania, something had to change. She knew she had the drive to make it, she just needed an opportunity.

In 2006, Tania and her son emigrated from Mexico to the United States. “In Mexico, sometimes you get an opportunity. Here you have the opportunity.” With only $200 in her pocket, Tania did what she knew to do — she secured another three jobs: cleaning houses, making tacos, and working as an administrator. With her English being almost non-existent, her employment opportunities were limited to low-wage jobs. But if it took working three jobs to support her and her son, that’s what Tania would do.

Eventually, Tania married, and along with her husband, Mike, they began to dream of buying a home where they could raise their family. They would get one step closer to that dream when her priest, Fr. Joe Tomei of St. Ignatius Martyr Catholic Church, told Tania about a program called Capital IDEA. The program would be able to provide Tania with the opportunity she had longed for. By paying for her college education, Capital IDEA could prepare Tania for a professional career, one that paid a living wage, and gave her advancement options. English would still be a problem, but after discussing her situation, Capital IDEA approved English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes to prepare her for college.

The road to graduation wasn’t easy, but with the support of Suzanne Baker, Tania’s Capital IDEA Career Navigator, as well as her husband, Mike, she pushed through. “It was hard. I was in my 40s. I’m from Mexico, and I had to learn the language. Also, I had to do a lot of studying to learn the medical language. But Suzanne was very good at guiding me by giving me very high goals. I wanted a house, and I wanted to pay for college for my son. I think that’s why I didn’t quit.” Her husband Mike was a tremendous help by encouraging her and carrying the extra load at home to provide time and space for Tania to focus on her studies. Eventually, in 2016, after 10 years in the United States (two years spent in ESOL classes, almost three years earning prerequisite college credits, and a year and a half in the vocational nursing program at Austin Community College), Tania was finally ready for her new career as a Licensed Vocational Nurse. So, she went to work.

In 2020, as daily life shifted and the world first started responding to what would soon escalate into a global pandemic, Tania once again, had an enormous challenge to face. With senior citizens being some of the most vulnerable people, nursing homes all over the country began implementing strict safety procedures. At Brodie Ranch Nursing and Rehab Center, where Tania works, they put in place strict protocols, asking their employees to go above and beyond at work and at home to keep their patients safe. “If we want to keep our jobs we had to follow some strict rules outside of the nursing home. The administrator told us we could only go shopping once a week, or try to go once every two weeks. And if we go out, we need to wear our masks and our gloves. We also had to keep strict cleaning procedures at home and to make sure everything is sterile. Because if COVID-19 came into the nursing home, it would be from one of us.”

Tania was required to keep her house clean and sterile by CDC and WHO guidelines. This included things like wearing gloves for all cleaning and disinfection. In addition to using soap and water to clean surfaces, an EPA approved disinfectant also had to be used. All high touch surfaces have to be cleaned on a regular basis, including things we usually don’t think of like doorknobs and light switches.

For now, Tania’s job has encompassed her personal life, but she continues to persevere as she always has. Her life has prepared her for these difficult times, and she understands this is all part of being a nurse. This career choice is not just about the salary. “You get into nursing because you have the heart and passion to save lives. It’s hard sometimes because as a nurse you can get contaminated, but our mission is to save lives and keep people safe.” Tania has spent her whole life rising to the occasion, and in a time when lives depend on a nurse’s capacity to go above and beyond, it’s Tania and others like her that we’re so grateful to have on the front lines keeping us and our loved ones safe.

At Capital IDEA, we envision a thriving Central Texas where non-traditional students like Tania have the opportunity to get an education, earn a living wage, and reach their full potential.  As Tania’s story shows, sometimes you have to go to extraordinary lengths to take advantage of an opportunity and rise to your full potential. If you’re ready to do the work, we’re ready to support your education and help you get into your future career. Get Started »


The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Ramos, and so many, many others confront us forcefully and inescapably with the violent racism endured by our Black neighbors, colleagues, students, friends, and family. We must not forget. It demands that we listen deeply and attentively. We must act.

We, as individuals and as an organization, will stand with our Black students, neighbors, and community. We will tune in to the messages of our local Black leaders and social justice organizations and we will amplify their voices.

For more than 20 years, we have worked in communities of color to empower individuals with an opportunity for education and a better life. Working in these communities has taught us that change at an individual level is only the beginning. Lasting change must happen at a systemic level, which is why we will continue our efforts to increase voter registration and voter turnout, and we will impress upon our neighbors the vital importance of being counted.

A commitment to dignity and prosperity for all is at Capital IDEA’s core. Success in education and career are essential for a prosperous community. But not enough. We acknowledge that racism is deeply embedded in our institutions, neighborhoods, and history. We know that implicit bias can go undetected and do great harm. In the coming weeks and months, we will not shrink from asking ourselves tough questions. And if we find we can do more, do better — we will.

We are all in this together — listening, learning, and acting.

Melynda Caudle

President, Cooper Consulting
Board Chair

Rev. Katie Wright
Associate Rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church
Central Texas Interfaith
Vice Chair

Steve Jackobs
Executive Director


“If I have the skills, what am I doing sitting back?” There is a sense of purpose and conviction in Irene’s voice as she expresses that sentiment from her hotel room in New Jersey. Irene Reyna, Capital IDEA alumnae, just spent the day settling into what will be her new home for the next 10 weeks. Responding to a deep sense of purpose, Irene took a courageous step and volunteered to go to the New York City area to help with the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Think about those nurses. There’s only a certain amount per patient that are sick, and they’re so run down. I know I can’t help the world, but if I can help those nurses have one more day off or two, that would be worth it.”

Irene is a Registered Nurse at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. A single mother who has raised 3 sons, she realized over 16 years ago that she could not provide for her family working as a waitress, and she needed to do something else. “I have one life to live, and I want to live with choices.” When Irene heard about Capital IDEA from her sister, she thought it was too good to be true. After some investigation, Irene applied and was accepted into the Career Expressway program offered by Capital IDEA. She was pregnant with her second child, due in November, and planning to start school in January. Unfortunately, her baby was born with complications. “I called Capital IDEA and told them my situation, and they held my spot for an entire year. For them to have waited for me for a year, that meant a lot to me. That meant to me that they were true with their commitment.”

Irene was finally able to start, but going back to school was hard for her. “I remember Sundays was McDonald’s day. We would eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. The kids would play on the indoor playscape while I studied. I had to be very disciplined.” The support that Capital IDEA gave was instrumental in helping her through this time. “I knew that I had support from Capital IDEA, like if I needed tutoring or childcare.” Irene will be forever grateful for the commitment Capital IDEA made to her and her family. Her Career Navigator, Maria Mora, was a tremendous source of support and guidance for her. “I was a brand new mom. Yes, I was an adult, but I wasn’t prepared to be one. I had an awesome counselor that stood by me.”

Irene graduated in 2007 with her A.D.N. (Associate’s Degree in Nursing) from Austin Community College. “If Capital IDEA hadn’t given me the opportunity to get my degree, I don’t know where I would be today.” Years later, she continued her education, and in the Spring of 2017, she graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Grand Canyon University. “If I would’ve believed the people that said it was too hard, there would be no way I could afford to provide for my family. Now I know I can take care of my children. I’m stable and able to pay my bills.” It is this same courage that helped her tackle her rigorous degree programs that has driven Irene to the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

“This is my opportunity to step up. I know it’s going to be dangerous, but this is what we were trained for.” With the blessing and support of her children, Rodolfo (21), Oscar (20), and Joshua (11), the youngest who will be staying with his older brother while she’s away, Irene set off to the northeast to utilize her training and skills to be a part of the solution. A small bright spot to her heading to New York is that Irene will be able to do the work she’s called to without the stress of exposing her family to the virus when she returns home each night. As of this post, it has been reported that New York City has over 135,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with around 10,000 deaths. “People in Texas seem to not be worried about this. Probably if they saw the rooms full of bodies, where their families aren’t able to say goodbye, they would understand how real this is. Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Irene urges everyone to only go out for the essentials, stay home, and wash your hands.

Irene believes that being a nurse is about loving people. “We want our families to have the best of care. I took an oath to be there for people and care for them in the very best way I can.” Capital IDEA is proud to #SupportNurses and is proud of all its graduates in the healthcare industry putting themselves out there on the frontlines of this pandemic.

If you’re interested in a rewarding career in healthcare, you can get started with an associate’s degree, and we can help you earn it. Get Started »


While many of us are sheltering-in-place at home, Ytzayana Macias puts on her scrubs and goes to work. She is a Medical Surgical Nurse at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center. “Feels a bit eerie. There are no visitors allowed in the hospital. We have been very intensely trained in personal protective equipment (PPE), and have to be very careful and mindful of everything we do.” In the midst of a pandemic, it is healthcare workers who are on the frontlines. “It is scary. I did come into this career knowing I would be exposed to a lot of things.” Still, her commitment to being a nurse has not faltered. “I know I’m doing what I can, and what I’m called to. If anything were to happen to me while nursing, it would be worth it.”

Ytzayana’s passion for nursing started at the age of 15. In her youth, she remembers being sick quite often and always in and out of hospitals. One of the things she remembers fondly from those experiences is the bonds she formed with the nurses. The nurses took care of her and were always there when she needed them. It was this display of care and compassion that inspired her to pursue nursing.

Once out of high school, Ytzayana had her eyes set on the nursing program at Texas State. Unfortunately, when she got her scholarships, she realized it wouldn’t be enough. She couldn’t afford Texas State, but she could and would find another way forward. She decided to attend Austin Community College (ACC). Her first semester, she not only attended classes full-time but also worked full-time to pay for school. It was exhausting. One day, her father came with information about a program that could pay for her college tuition and books. “I thought it was a scam initially.” It seemed too good to be true, but she decided to attend an information session. Soon after, she was accepted into Capital IDEA’s Career Expressway program, where she had the opportunity to attend ACC free of charge. In May of 2018, she became the first college graduate in her family when she received her Associate’s Degree in Nursing.

Looking back, Ytzayana believes that ACC was the right decision. “I love the small class setting.” Not only that, but she has also seen firsthand that nursing graduates from ACC are extremely well trained and the most prepared to handle any challenge thrown at them. In addition to the support and training she received at ACC, Ytzayana is hugely grateful for all of the support she received from Capital IDEA. Not only did they pay for her expenses, but her Career Navigators, Lori and Theresa, provided a lot of emotional support. Their encouragement was a key factor in her perseverance to finish nursing school. As of this post, she’s returned to ACC and is now only a few months away from finishing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

When asked what she would tell someone considering a nursing degree during these challenging times, Ytzayana commented: “Being scared is ok. If you want to become a nurse because you want to help people, this is the time.” She has not, for one second, regretted her choice to become a nurse. Her training and education prepared her to handle the challenges, and her positive attitude and passion keep her going back to work. With a calm and confident voice, she offers encouragement by saying, “We’re going to be fine. Disasters happen. The human population is resilient. The important part is to take care of each other.” And also, she makes sure to remind us to, “stay home, and wash your hands.”

Capital IDEA is proud to support nurses like Ytzayana, who are out there doing all they can to care for and protect our community during times of crisis. More are needed. If nursing is your calling, we invite you to learn more about how Capital IDEA can support your education.

NOTICE: We’re taking steps to practice responsible social distancing which can help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19 ). For the time being, we’ve set up a temporary process for new applicants.

4 Steps To Apply

Thank you for applying to Capital IDEA! Our Temporary Application Process will allow you to complete the application process from your home computer or smartphone. For anyone without a home computer or smartphone, we have paper packets to mail out, and we’re available to walk you through the steps over the phone. Call our helpline to get started.

Helpline: 512-485-9350 or

STEP 1. Get to Know Us

Time needed: 30 minutes.
Sign up to attend an Online CareerUp information session
CareerUp: Online — Sign Up »

STEP 2. Fill Out an Application

Time needed: 15 minutes.
Capital IDEA Application »
Note: If you’ve filled out an application with us before, your application will be flagged as a duplicate. Don’t worry, just continue on to the next step. If you need to update your information, call our help line.

STEP 3. Take an Assessment

Time needed: 15 minutes.
We are temporarily accepting an online assessment called the O*net Interest Profiler. Take the assessment and save your results (print to PDF, or copy and paste to a Word document). You’ll upload your results in Step 4.
O*net Interest Profiler »

STEP 4. Upload Documents

Time needed: 1 hour.
This is the final step to complete your application. You will see a list of documents to collect at the bottom of this page. Because this step is the big one, and we know you might have questions, we have staff ready to help! If you haven’t called our helpline yet, now might be the right time to take a breath, and give us a call. We can explain which documents you need and why: call or email.

Time to gather your documents and make digital copies. You can use your phone to either take pictures (make sure the text is clear), or use an app like the Adobe Scan app linked below. Once you have them, you will submit your documents using the secure document upload form. You can submit the form more than once, if you need to, just be sure to keep track of what you’ve sent so that you’ll know when you’re done. Remember, never send personal documents or information through email.
Secure Document Upload »

FAQ: How do I scan documents? If you don’t have a scanner at home, you can use your smart phone and an app called Adobe Scan.
Get the Adobe Scan app »
How to use Adobe Scan tutorial video »

Documents to Collect:

Open ↕
Required documents:
  1. For yourself, submit three items: 1. your driver’s license (or other state issued ID), 2. social security card, and 3. birth certificate (or permanent residency card).
  2. For your spouse or partner, submit 2 forms of ID. These can be any of the following: birth certificates, social security cards, passports, driver’s licenses, or state identification cards. Documents from foreign countries are acceptable, but if you have U.S. documents, please submit those.
  3. For each additional child or dependent in your household, submit 2 forms of ID: birth certificate, and social security card.
Open ↕
  • If you’ve attended college, submit your college transcripts. Unofficial copies are acceptable.
  • If you have not attended college before, submit your high school diploma or GED.
Open ↕
  1. Required: Pay stubs for one month of income for yourself and/or your spouse
  2. Required: Your most recent tax return
  3. Required, if applicable: Retirement, SSI, Workman’s Comp, Disability
Open ↕
Common types of assistance that must be documented, if applicable:
  • Food stamps, AFDC/TANF, Medicaid, Medicare, WIC, unemployment, child support, housing or utility assistance, refugee assistance
  • Letters of support from family or friends who are paying some or all of your expenses or giving you money to help you out. The letter should state whether their support will continue while you’re in school.
Open ↕
Types of financial aid that must be documented, if applicable:
  • Education loans, grants (PELL Grant, or SEOG, TPEG), scholarships
Open ↕
Proof of address and residence.
  • Provide a lease, mortgage statement
  • If you do not have a lease or a mortgage, provide these three things: 1. a letter from the individual providing your housing. 2. You will need to provide a utility bill with his or her name on it to show that they are the head of household at that address, and 3. you must provide any piece of mail with your name on it to show you receive mail at that address.
Open ↕
Types of basic utilities that must be documented:
  • Electricity, gas, phone, and water
Open ↕
Types of monthly expenses that must be documented if they apply to you:
  • Car payment, car insurance, child care, credit cards, cell phone, cable, internet, monthly rentals of storage, appliances, or furniture, etc.
Open ↕
  • If you have a criminal record, please submit a copy of your criminal background. You’ll need to get a copy from the DPS.
  • If you do not have a criminal record, skip this item.
Open ↕
  • If you or your spouse served in the military, please submit a copy of the DD214.
  • If you are a male, U.S. Citizen, who did not serve in the military, please submit proof of selective service registration. You can print that here:
  • If neither applies to you, skip this item.


Nonprofits do great work that can benefit an entire community. In doing so, they sometimes face unique situations and challenges for which trusted legal counsel becomes indispensable. When you think of a nonprofit, their need for legal guidance may not immediately come to mind. Still, it is vital from day one. Legal counsel is essential when the organization first establishes its 501(c)3 status and continues to be important as the nonprofit grows. Since our founding in 1998, Capital IDEA has been fortunate to have Gray & Becker, P.C., as our legal advisors.

Gray & Becker, P.C., is a local law firm based in Austin. Serving clients throughout Central Texas for more than 30 years, they specialize in Business & Commercial Litigation, Family Law, and Employment Law. The firm’s outstanding work in the legal community has earned them a reputation for excellence. Yet, even among the demands of running a top law firm, they still find time to give back to the community. They have been known to participate in fundraisers for Volunteer Legal Services of Texas and are a proud sponsor of Capital IDEA.

Pictured: Dianne & Douglas Becker

Gray & Becker, P.C., has partnered with Capital IDEA since the very beginning. They started as Capital IDEA’s legal counsel, then became a prominent financial supporter. Since 2002, they have sponsored Capital IDEA’s annual Celebration of Achievements. When asked why they continue to support Capital IDEA, Douglas Becker replied, “When I think of Capital IDEA, I think of inspiration. I think of students who have been inspired and in turn, go and inspire others.” The mission of helping people get educated and receive quality, relevant job training was something that resonated with the people at their firm.

Not only are they a proud event sponsor, but their legal expertise over the years has also been crucial. According to Capital IDEA Executive Director, Steve Jackobs, “they helped us navigate tricky waters during a time when the City of Austin established a short-term gag rule that prevented nonprofits from speaking to any government employee other than one designated contact.” This rule tripped up other nonprofits, and at least one was caught unawares by a violation finding. Since Capital IDEA works closely with several departments within the City of Austin, and other city branches and officials as well, legal counsel was crucial when working with public contracting during that time. Douglas Becker, of Gray & Becker, P.C., was an invaluable guide and helped Capital IDEA steer clear of any entanglements and keep operations going.

Without the support of local organizations, such as Gray & Becker, P.C., Capital IDEA would not be able to do what it does. Whether through legal counsel or financial contributions, they have shown us the power of local organizations coming together to support nonprofits for the betterment of a community. We thank them, and we thank all of you who continue to support the mission and vision of Capital IDEA.


This year’s Aurora Alworth Spirit award was given to Alondra Rodriguez. Although Alondra couldn’t be there in person to accept the award on March 5, 2020, she prepared and shared her story ahead of our event.

About the Aurora Alworth Award:
   skip to Alondra’s story

The Aurora Alworth Spirit Award was named for one of Capital IDEA’s earliest students whose perseverance and commitment to her education could not be extinguished, even by cancer. Aurora maintained her studies during her treatment and was an inspiration to her fellow students and Capital IDEA staff. Aurora passed away in 2002. We proudly honor her memory by recognizing one of our graduates who exemplifies this same spirit of perseverance, determination, and inspiring others.

This year’s Aurora Alworth Spirit Award recipient is Alondra Rodriguez. Alondra started with Capital IDEA in 2015 as a College Prep student. For a decade before that, she’d held onto a dream of becoming a nurse without any idea of how she would get there. Although she often feared it would never happen, she clung to hope, and in 2019, Alondra became the first person in her family to a graduate college.

Her Career Navigator, Sister Ane nominated Alondra for this spirit award because, throughout her time in college, Alondra had a heart for others and showed a willingness to help her peers, often taking time to work with other students who struggled despite her own demanding schedule and family responsibilities as a single mother of three.

When asked about her motivation to lend a hand to those around her, Alondra said that seeing others struggle reminded her of herself, and she knew how hard it could be to feel like it was the end of the world. Having someone to tell her that she could keep going made a huge difference to her and she wants to be that for other people.

For Alondra, that has meant getting involved in the Associate Degree Nursing Student Association to support her fellow students. She would reach out to those a level or two behind her in the nursing program, offering them encouragement, pulling them forward, and helping them find resources to keep them on track. Previously, Alondra also shared her personal story with the teen mom classes at Any Baby Can for the same reason — to be that voice of encouragement.

This award recognizes Alondra’s spirit of dedication to education, perseverance to overcome challenges, and willingness to help those around her.

Alondra Rodriguez’s Story:

My name is Alondra Rodriguez, I am a first-generation Mexican-American and a single mother of 3. My parents came to the U.S in search of the “American Dream” and a better future for us.

My father worked hard 7 days a week and often double shifts. He taught us that the only way to make it in life was to work twice as hard as the average person and save your money. I remember thinking from a young age that once I graduated high school, I would get a job to help them pay their bills. That was my end goal.

But then my grandmother got diagnosed with cancer. Growing up, I spent every summer and two weeks in the winter with her in Mexico every year. As her condition got worse, treatment options were basically non-existent. It was a huge eye-opener, and that’s when I knew that I wanted to make a difference for others like her.

Unfortunately, my teenage years got a little complicated, and I became a mom at the age of 15. I moved out and took on the responsibilities of my own household while still trying to finish high school. When I had my second child, I was transferred to Austin Can Academy, but instead of continuing, I dropped out and got my GED. It was a rough time, and I struggled with all the things that I see other teen moms struggle with: feeling overwhelmed, angry, and scared.

When things didn’t work out between me and the father of my children, I moved back in with my parents. Without their support, I don’t know if I would have made it. I had young children to care for, and I knew college was not an option. I needed a job, but I felt limited by my education. I wasn’t qualified to work in healthcare, which was still my dream.

I was fortunate to find a decent job at a clinic that primarily served low-income immigrants, and I was at least partially fulfilling my dream of helping those in need. After eight years there, they gave me the opportunity to work a few days a week as a Medical Assistant, and the other days I did administration and billing work. Although I felt lucky to have the job, I knew I wanted to do more.

In 2012, my oldest daughter took it upon herself to apply to Anne Richard’s Academy and got accepted. She wants to be a pediatrician. As we were talking about HER college plans, she helped me realize that I could still make my own dreams come true.

I took the first step and enrolled at Austin Community College. Then the realization of how expensive it would be hit me like a pile of bricks. I was the sole provider for my children, and I was already working full time and barely making ends meet. There was no way I could do it alone.

Thankfully, I heard about Capital IDEA. Not only did they pay for my classes, books, uniforms, and supplies but they assigned me a personal navigator that was truly my angel. Sister Ane took the time to listen and motivate me when things got hard and I felt like giving up. In nursing school, you have a lot of these moments.

Thanks to the love and support of my family, friends, and Capital IDEA, I made it! I am the first college graduate in my family. Unfortunately, my grandmother couldn’t be here to see it, but I know she is looking down on me and smiling. My parents are so proud and my siblings, too. My youngest sister has enrolled at ACC and is studying to be a sonographer.

I am now a Registered Nurse at St. David’s South Austin Hospital in the Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. It’s the same floor I worked on as a patient tech while I was in school. Once, when my school schedule got too demanding, I tried to quit, but instead of letting me go, they created a nurse externship position that allowed me to work one day a week. I felt so appreciated and valued. It was such a different experience from my early days when I was sure no one would want to hire me. I’m somewhere I’m needed, and I’m helping people every day. I finally have my dream job!


This spotlight is a transcript of the acceptance speech given by Aida Nacro at the Capital IDEA Celebration of Achievements luncheon on March 5, 2020. Aida received the Mark Melliar-Smith Leadership Award, presented by Alyssia Palacio-Woods.

  skip to Aida’s speech

Hello, My name is Alyssia Palacio-Woods. I am President & CEO of Austin Young Chamber, and a Board Member with Capital IDEA. This year, it is my honor to present The Mark Melliar-Smith Leadership Award. This award was created to honor and cultivate the tradition of leadership among Capital IDEA’s students and graduates. It is named for former Board member Mark Melliar-Smith whose level of involvement and dedication over his twelve years on the board serves as our example of excellence in leadership.

This year’s award goes to Aida Nacro.

Aida graduated from Austin Community College in 2016 as a Network Administrator. Aida knew that she wanted a career working with computers, but obstacles in her life prevented her from following that dream. Then she applied to Capital IDEA where she demonstrated focus, determination, and a high level of motivation.

After graduation, Aida made time in her extremely busy schedule to advocate for Capital IDEA by participating in Accountability meetings with local officials, visiting the State Capitol, and representing Capital IDEA at events with funding partners. Aida was also a member and key contributor to the IT Action Committee, a community collaborative that worked over the course of two years to address a critical need for trained IT workers to fill open positions. The committee made huge strides in improving our community’s ability to provide the right training and grow a local IT workforce.

Aida has also taken on a leadership role within Capital IDEA’s Alumni Association. She has managed all of this while also working full time as a Network Administrator, raising her two children as a single parent, and working towards her Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science.

Aida, please accept this award in recognition of your passionate and steadfast leadership.


Hello, My name is Aida Nacro, I am happy to be here today. I am originally from West Africa and I am a mother of two children. I was married, but in 2011, my ex-husband left, placing our family in a very vulnerable position. I started working over-time, but even working fifty hours or more a week, I still struggled to make ends meet. I felt uncertain about our future and had no time to dedicate to my children. That is when I heard about Capital IDEA, through a co-worker.

I could not believe that they would cover my tuition, fees, books and some child care assistance. It was the support I needed to finally go after the career I’d always wanted. I was accepted to Capital IDEA and decided to follow my heart and pursue a degree in Network Administration. My Career Navigator was so supportive, and Ron, the Employer Coordinator, helped me secure a paid internship, which gave me hands-on experience.

Now, I work for the Travis County and even though I am the only woman in my team, I feel right at home. I love my field, and I want to do my part to encourage and mentor other women to pursue degrees in tech careers. I also want to give back to the community that help me reach my goals. I am very involved in community work through my church. But my proudest achievement is being an example to my children and providing them with a better life. Thank you.


This spotlight is a transcript of the keynote speech Jaime Martinez gave on March 5, 2020 at Capital IDEA’s Celebration of Achievements luncheon.

When you look back at your life, who are the people that believed in you the most?

My name is Jaime Martinez, and I have been fortunate enough to have been surrounded by people who believed in me and pushed me to accomplish so much in my life. The truth is, school never came easy for me. I was not the best student in high school. That was probably because I didn’t put in a lot of effort. In fact, I remember when I asked my mom if she was coming to my high school graduation she joked: “I don’t believe you, you never to go school. I’m afraid if I go they’re never going to call your name.” In case you’re wondering, they did call my name, and I did graduate.

After high school, I married my high school sweetheart, Norma, and found a job at a fast-food place. Even though I didn’t study hard, I did believe in working hard. My willingness to show up and do the work eventually earned me an assistant manager position. I was making the most money I had ever made in my life, and yet I still felt like I wanted to do more for my family.

One day when my wife, Norma, was taking our daughter to daycare at a church she found a flyer for Capital IDEA. She came home and told me, “You can do this.” Remembering I was not the best high school student, I hesitated. I finally went to an info session, and this seemed too good to be true! I couldn’t believe that they would pay for everything. So I applied and I got in the program.

I know there are some students in the audience today that are going through the program now. I want to encourage you to keep going. Going to college wasn’t easy for me, either. I couldn’t speak English very well when I started so I had to improve my language skills. I also had to continue working to support my family. So I was attending classes from 5 pm-8 pm every day, and studying late into the night, then getting up in the morning to go to work. I know how you’re feeling right now. It’s a lot of work and it feels like it will never end. My advice is to trust that your hard work will pay off. Even if you’re struggling — keep at it.

For me, my hard work started paying off in 2003, when I earned my two certifications in A+ and Network + from ACC. Shortly after, I was able to land an interview with a contract agency that worked with Dell. I was applying to be a Customer Service Technician, but I didn’t get the job. Still, I impressed the person interviewing me so much, that he offered me a job as a Prototype Technician instead! I was so excited.

I worked as a Prototype Technician for about 5 years, and I was very happy there. Eventually, a position opened up in another department for Program Manager. I didn’t know anything about program management, but my supervisor encouraged me to apply. He recognized my work ethic, and he knew that what I didn’t know about the job, I would learn. After a round of intense and difficult interviews, I got the job.

I’ve been at Dell for 16 years. I’ve moved up from Prototype Technician to where I am today as a Senior Advisor for Project Management. I have two certifications from ACC, and I have managed to beat out people with higher degrees from top universities for jobs. Do you know what made the difference? People saw and recognized my drive to keep learning and my commitment to do whatever is needed to get the job done.

One of my former supervisors at Dell still tells the story about one winter when a hard freeze hit the Austin area. Since Dell is a corporation that allows its employees to work remotely, everybody in our department called in that day. When my supervisor called to check on me, he asked, “Jaime, where are you?” I said to him, “I’m in the lab, where else would I be? It’s a workday.” He was so impressed that he started using that story as an example of what a good work ethic looks like.

How you present yourself and the effort you put in matters. This is something I try to teach my kids. I tell them that I expect from them the same thing I expect from myself; to work hard and to keep learning. I even bring home my annual reviews to show them what people at work say about me. This way I can show them that I’m not asking them to do anything I won’t do myself.

Another piece of advice I would give is to surround yourself with people who believe in you. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do anything. They don’t matter. The people who have mattered to me are the ones who encouraged me and believed in me. I had many supervisors at Dell and at the fast food place that valued me and always encouraged me when I moved on to something else.

During my time at ACC, one of the people who was really important to me was Theresa, my Career Navigator at Capital IDEA. She was always there for me. She would call me to make sure I was keeping up with my studies. She knew when I had big tests coming up and would ask if there was anything I needed help with. She even found a way to help me out with gas when I needed it to get to classes. When I wanted to quit she was there to encourage me to keep going. And when I graduated she is the one who introduced me to the contract agency that got me the interview with Dell.

Capital IDEA did so much more than just pay for my school. They supported me throughout the whole process, and they opened a door for me that I never thought would have been possible. I have a wonderful career with so many opportunities for advancement still ahead of me. I now earn about 4 times as much money as I used to. I have a great house and a daughter who now has the opportunity to go to a top university. I get to run marathons as a hobby. I get to travel all over the world for work and see some pretty amazing things.

Last, but definitely not least, I have to tell you about my wife Norma. She has been my rock. My encourager. She believed in me from the very beginning and always knew I could do anything I put my mind to. She stood by me and kept our family together during those hard times when I was hardly available to her because I had to work and study. And even when I wanted to quit, she encouraged me to push through, and she never stopped believing in me. I owe her everything.

Before I finish I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you. If you’ve ever supported Capital IDEA in any way, you have also supported me, and people like me. Capital IDEA opened a door for me to a future that I never would have dreamed of. Every time you give to Capital IDEA you provide an opportunity to change someone’s life. Isn’t it incredible to believe that your support has helped someone go from a small-town farm in Mexico, into a high paying job at one of the largest computer companies in the country? I am so thankful and proud to be a Capital IDEA graduate. Thank you for your support.


Caprice Boxton is an Austinite through and through. Her family has lived here for generations, dating back to the late 1800s. Caprice says she “grew up in Austin living a normal life.”  She graduated from LBJ High School, and like a lot of people, she struggled to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. She knew college was in her future, but she didn’t know what career field to pursue. Her creative side was pulling her toward art, but she needed something with more financial stability.

It was at this point where she met a Capital IDEA alumnus, Katherine Kirby, who introduced her to a program that would pay for her education and provide a sense of direction for her life. Before applying to Capital IDEA, Caprice was working low-paying jobs with companies such as McDonald’s. Now she was enrolled in Austin Community College (ACC) working toward a career as a Dental Hygienist.

The Dental Hygiene program wasn’t easy for Caprice. The course work was rigorous. “I really had to push myself to learn things. I’m not the best learner; the way I see things and interpret things are a little different.” What Caprice found at ACC was an extremely helpful faculty that showed her skills and techniques that would help her excel as a dental hygienist. “Some of the instructors even came in early to help me.”

Through Capital IDEA, Caprice was able to identify a career path that she enjoyed while also providing security for her financial future, and in May of 2012, Caprice graduated from Austin Community College with her Associates of Applied Science in Dental Hygiene.

Caprice appreciated the amount of support Capital IDEA offered her throughout her time at ACC. Though, one of the best things about Capital IDEA for her was their commitment to diversity in the workplace. When Caprice entered the dental hygienist program she was not aware of the incredible lack of diversity in the field. According to the latest statistics for dental hygienists, 88.6% are White, with the next two race or ethnicity categories coming in at 4.3% for Asians and 3.67% for Blacks.[1]

Caprice recalled “feeling awkward” at times while enrolled in her program at ACC. While none of her instructors or fellow students did anything to make her feel this way, the awareness that she was the only person that looked like her was enough to give her pause.

When it came time to apply for jobs, she recalled the advice that people gave her to, “look for a place where there was already some diversity,” as this would increase her chances of getting hired. As well as hints that she should steer clear of small practices since “dentists are sometimes reluctant to break the mold by hiring a black dental hygienist because it’s not something that common.” After numerous job interviews, Caprice finally landed her first dental hygienist position with a corporation serving thirty-one dental offices in the Austin and Houston areas. As she explained, “corporations are usually a lot more diverse, there are more legalities and structure.”

The struggle to find work in the dental hygienist field is not unique to Caprice. Martelle Coke, the founder of BrownGirl RDH, an organization dedicated to bridging the diversity gap within the dental hygienist community, is all too familiar with stories like Caprice’s. The members of her organization form a community that encourages and inspires each other when facing the trials of disparity within the dental hygienist field. One such member, a dental hygienist for 22 years, living in Texas, recounts her story of losing out on a job due to her skin color:

“I’ve experienced not being hired because of my black skin twice to be exact. One in McKinney, Texas. The doctor found my resume on Indeed and was excited to meet me because we both graduated from the same private college in Wisconsin. The interview over the phone went so well, he basically gave me the job over the phone.” But the next day when she showed up in person, she was told the job was filled. The next day, a colleague inquired about the position and was told it was still open, and they were eager to schedule a hiring interview.

Caprice believes that diversity is necessary to help people live healthy lives. She understands that “People tend to be more comfortable and go to someone they look like. It’s about relatability.” Caprice also believes that diversity in her field is necessary to ensure equal care for individuals of all backgrounds, and this will only get better when there is more representation. For her, without her friend encouraging her and the support from Capital IDEA, she would have never even considered dental hygiene as a career. “People need to see other people that look like themselves.” Her advice to other minorities thinking about entering a field with a lack of diversity is: “Go at it hard. We need to represent in every field.”

Capital IDEA is committed to increasing diversity in our local workforce. In 2018, over 70% of Capital IDEA students were ethnic or racial minorities, and 77% were women.

For more information on BrownGirl RDH, visit:




Student loan debt is a real problem. According to a 2019 article in Forbes magazine, student loan debt in America has hit 1.5 trillion dollars.[1] Saddling new graduates with debt can have serious consequences for their futures. New graduates often have to settle for lower-paying jobs so they can start paying their student loans right away. They are also 36% less likely to buy a house, or buy a car, and are more likely to live with their parents.[2] It seems that students have a choice to either go into debt and earn their college degree, or stay out of debt but settle for a lower wage job.

Fortunately for Marco and Irineo, they found a third option with Capital IDEA.

Irineo Martin Acosta-Arroyo

Marco and Irineo are not brothers, but they have a bond that could be described as such. Despite the fact that Marco is the more outspoken of the two, both of them are Mexican immigrants, went to the same high school, graduated from the same automotive program at Austin Community College (ACC), and now work side-by-side at the KIA of South Austin dealership making the most either has ever earned at a job. Both of them also realized that the only way they would be able to attend college is to find a way to pay for it without incurring debt. It just so happened that their high school counselor introduced them to Capital IDEA, and after hearing a presentation, they were hooked.

Marco and Irineo realized that they could not waste an opportunity like this. It was too good to be true. Capital IDEA would pay for their entire tuition while attending ACC, and would also pay for the tools they needed as a requirement in the automotive program and to get started in their future careers. (Automotive techs bring their own tools to work.) While the majority of their former high school classmates were either opting to not go to college, or digging themselves into debt at a four-year university, Marco and Irineo made the decision to join the Capital IDEA program, graduate debt-free, and obtain good-paying jobs. Without the financial burden of student loan debt, both of them are able to give back to their families who have been so supportive of them throughout. Marco also got the chance to purchase what he calls a “project car” in the form of a ’93 Mustang GT, which he is excited to fix up with his newly acquired education and income.

Marco Rodriguez

When asked why he thinks most students choose not to go to college straight out of high school, Marco answered, “they get scared of going into debt.” Irineo agrees. He was motivated to apply to Capital IDEA because “it gave me an opportunity to explore something I wanted to do for free.” Capital IDEA was able to provide an opportunity for these two young men to earn a college degree and do so without the stress of having to pay anything back once they were finished. With their newfound financial freedom, both of them are set up for long-term success whether they choose to climb the ladder at their current job or continue their education.

Capital IDEA can help you earn your degree without incurring the burden of student loan debt. Are you ready to get started? CareerUp »



TEAMWORK & STUDENT SUCCESS | Capital IDEA is looking for an experienced case manager (3+ years of day to day case management experience working with adults receiving direct services and/or high school students transitioning into college). The Career Navigator provides case management for about 100 adult students and guides them through successful completion of their academic plan in preparation for job placement. To be considered for this position, applicants’ resumes should clearly include a track record of teamwork and student success. Please highlight in your cover letter and resume the skills you’ve developed to help students succeed, and how you’ve contributed to effective teams in the past.

Employer Profile – What is it like to work here?

At Capital IDEA, we aim to empower our income-eligible neighbors with training and education so that they can fill a critical need in our community for caring, skilled, and highly motivated workers. Since our founding in 1998, more than 1,600 Central Texans have launched new careers and secured a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Capital IDEA has built a diverse and dedicated team that shares a passion for our mission. We reward performance through competitive salaries and merit-based raises. While we expect our team to go above and beyond in service to our community, we also believe that you must take care of yourself to take care of others. We offer a generous benefits package which includes a week of sick leave, two to four weeks of vacation (based on experience), plus extra paid time off for everyone during the holidays (we close from December 24th through January 1st every year.) We provide medical, dental, and vision insurance, plus a three percent match on retirement contributions. When you join our team, you’ll have high expectations to meet and big goals to work towards. You’ll also have a team who supports you, and you’ll know you’re making a difference.

To Apply
Read full job description and qualifications: Career Navigator Job Description PDF »
Email resume and cover letter with salary requirements to Program Manager, William Askew, Jr.
Deadline EXTENDED: Friday, February 7, 2020
Salary range: $44-46,000


It was a long road for Lud Guerrero to get where she is now. In a society that values instant results, such as free 2-day shipping, and drive-thru windows, it takes a special kind of courage to keep fighting when things take longer than expected. Lud never expected to take such a long road, but thirteen years after getting married at a young age, and three kids later, she finally made the decision to go back to school, and take control of her future.

Lud and her mother emigrated from Panama to the United States when she was nine months old looking for a better life. Growing up, Lud was raised in a loving home by her mother and her aunt. Still, Lud’s mother suffered from a mental illness and alcoholism. Struggling to deal with her home life, Lud started acting out during her adolescent years which caused her to graduate from high school a year late, and at the age of eighteen, she was pregnant with her first child.

Raising her child became Lud’s top priority. She got married and put her personal ambitions on hold. Thirteen years and three children later, Lud felt the urge to go back to school and fulfill one of her life goals: to earn a college degree. Going back to school proved to be a challenge. With her husband not working and unable to pay the bills, she had to forego her aspirations of a college education a while longer just to survive. After being evicted several times, Lud separated from her husband and moved into the Texas Baptist Children’s Home with her kids. “I needed some stability and help. I knew I needed a change for my family,” Lud realized.

The Texas Baptist Children’s Home (TBCH) was able to provide Lud stable housing and enabled her to take a part-time job to keep providing for her kids, but she was still at a loss about how she would pay for school. Fortunately, through a friend and a family care coordinator, Lud was introduced to Capital IDEA. “When funds were available for Williamson County, I quickly acted and began my journey with Capital IDEA. It was the best decision I made for my future.”

Capital IDEA was able to provide Lud with the funds necessary to pay for her college education without her having to incur any debt. Yet, funding was only part of the challenge. “I was excited and bombarded at the same time because you forget how much time you have to put into studying, and I also had a family to raise.” With friends and daycare resources provided through TBCH, Lud was able to dedicate time to her school work.

In addition, Lud received motivational support from her Capital IDEA Career Navigator, Sara Hernandez. “When I wanted to quit or give up, she would talk me out of it and would help me with anything I needed. I know she had other students, but she would always find a way to help me.” It was a long road, but with the help from Capital IDEA and the Texas Baptist Children’s Home, Lud graduated in December 2017 with her Associates Degree in Surgical Technology. Shortly after graduating, Lud secured a job with St. David’s Medical Center as a certified Surgical Technologist. “I wanted to show my children how hard work pays off and that having a college education gives you opportunities. I love what I do.”

Lud is now in a place where she is able to provide for her family, and she sees a bright future ahead. If there is one thing Lud would like for others to take from her story it’s this: “There are resources available to help you. It may be a long process, but it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be discouraged if the process takes longer than expected.”

The journey may be long, but as Lud has shown us, with courage, perseverance, and the right support, overcoming life’s obstacles is possible. Capital IDEA is here to help support you on the road to providing a bright future for your family.


This year Capital IDEA student, Alicia Gonzales, is a featured family in the Austin American Statesman Season for Caring. Since 1999, Statesman readers have generously donated more than 11 million dollars in cash and in-kind goods and services, all of which have benefited the featured families and hundreds of others like them who are also supported by these agencies. To donate items found on Alicia Garcia’s wish list (see graphic below) contact Capital IDEA at 512-457-8610.

Remember to check the box next to Alicia’s name. | Alicia Gonzales: Aspiring nurse, single mother working to give family a bright future

By Luz Moreno-Lozano
Posted Nov 26, 2019 at 10:49 AM

Photos by Lola Gomez / American-Statesman
View on »

Alicia Gonzales’ day starts at the crack of dawn. She wakes up around 4 a.m. to take her mother, Zonia Garcia, 62, to her 5:15 a.m. dialysis treatments at Davita, a 10-minute drive from her Georgetown apartment.

Her three sons — still half asleep — pile into the car for the trip, and by the time they return home, Gonzales says, it’s time to eat breakfast and get ready for school.

AJ, 6, takes the bus to school at 7:15 a.m. Ezra, 4, and Felix, 3, are dropped off at day care at 7:30 a.m. Gonzales then races to Round Rock for an 8 a.m. lecture or a test at Austin Community College, where she is studying to become a registered nurse.

ComForCare, a home and senior care organization, picks Garcia up from her appointments and takes her home. Shortly after, a home nurse meets Garcia and monitors her for a few hours after her treatments. Garcia then sleeps most of the day.

When school lets out around 3 p.m., Gonzales picks up the boys from school, heads home to check on Garcia, does homework with the boys and then starts dinner. By 7 p.m. the kids are in bed and ready for a book. They each pick a book and lie with Gonzales, 40, before falling asleep.

While her schedule can be demanding, Gonzales says she knew she had to find a way to earn more money, and going back to school to become a nurse was the way to do that.

“I was perfectly happy with my medical assistant salary, but once the kids started going to school, I knew I need to make better money,” Gonzales says. “I thought going back to school and becoming a nurse would be easy, but it is way more than I expected. It’s made me respect that job even more, and now that I have been working so hard to get (a degree), it’s not just a piece of paper anymore.”

Gonzales had no idea when she went back to school four years ago that she would give birth to her third son, separate from her husband, quit her part-time medical assistant job and become the primary caregiver for her mother, who has kidney failure, along the way. Garcia has been on dialysis three times a week since June 2018 and is not yet on a transplant list.

Knowing that Gonzales needed to continue working, they found Garcia an early morning chair time so she could have time to rest before taking care of the boys in the evening.

Gonzales worked as a part-time medical assistant at Lone Star Circle of Care and went to school during the day, but when her grades started to drop and it started to become too much for Garcia to take care of the boys after dialysis treatments, Gonzales says she dropped the job to focus on studying and taking care of the family.

While Gonzales has found some balance, she still has several months before she finishes school in May, and with limited income, things at home have gotten tight.

The family relies on monthly child support and leftover funds from Gonzales’ school grants to get by.

With the help of Capital IDEA — an Austin-based nonprofit that provides financial support and professional guidance to nontraditional students who want to move up in their career — she is able to receive funding for tuition, books and school supplies, but everyday appliances and household items have been put on the back burner until she can earn more money.


“We make it work,” Gonzales says. “We pray a lot, and I know a lot of the strength comes from God. I know I wouldn’t be able to do it without him. I give him glory every single day.”

Season For Caring Donation Form

Remember to check the box next to Alicia’s name to ensure your donation goes directly to her family.

Please note that by completing this donation form, you are donating to Austin American Statesman Season for Caring Fund, a component fund of the Austin Community Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity.


When Melinda Sertuche decided to go back to school, her 8-year old daughter didn’t understand why. “It was hard for her at first, because it was new. I don’t have any family members that had gone to college, so it’s not something that’s a normal thing in my family.” For Melinda, it meant spending less quality time with her daughter in order to study. It’s one of the challenges that most student-parents have to face. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office[1], one in five undergraduate students are parents. That same report also showed that about half of those student-parents left school without a degree.

Many parents decide to go back to school because of their children, hoping to provide a better living for their families, as well as inspire their children to seek higher education opportunities themselves. Sometimes, that desire is met with challenges that prevent them from doing so. This was true for Melinda. The desire for a better career and life was there, but she didn’t know how she could ever afford college, and pay for childcare. “It’s a huge stress,” describes Melinda, “how are you going to pay for everything, when you have to take a pay-cut to take classes?”

Capital IDEA understands the struggles that parents face when returning to school or work. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average cost of childcare in Texas for an infant is $9,324 per year. For a four year old it’s $7,062 per year. To put it into perspective, infant care in Texas costs 7.8% more per year than in-state tuition for a four-year public college.[2] At the end of the day, many parents find that the best economic solution is to stay at home with the kids and save on daycare costs.

Capital IDEA was able to provide Melinda with the support she needed to move forward with her college plans. Not only did we pay for Melinda’s tuition, books, and fees for her education, we were also able to provide her with financial assistance for childcare through our partnership with Workforce Solutions. Melinda says, “To be honest if it wasn’t for Capital IDEA, I wouldn’t be in school right now. There would be no way that I could afford going to school and work part-time, to get a new career. It would be almost impossible on my own to do that. [childcare] was a huge factor.”

Melinda would like other parents in her situation to know that there are solutions. There are ways for them to go back to school and work towards getting the job that will provide for their families and their futures. She is a testament to that. It hasn’t been easy, but she knows that in the end, it will all be worth it. As for now, Melinda has already started to see a positive impact of her decision on her daughter. “She used to not want to go to school. Now I’m getting notes from her teacher telling me that she’s eager to learn, and how good of a student she is. It’s pretty exciting to see my daughter excited about education because she sees what I do and how hard I work.” Melinda is currently finishing up her last pre-requisite class and is anticipating starting the nursing program at Austin Community College shortly thereafter.

If you or someone you know is interested in going back to school, but are having problems covering the costs of childcare, contact Capital IDEA to see if we can help you reach your career goals. We’re committed to removing the barriers that prevent adults from obtaining living-wage careers in Central Texas. We provide tuition and childcare assistance, as well as additional resources to help student-parents realize their dreams for a better career and life.




If you live in the Austin area, but haven’t heard of the St. David’s Foundation, there’s a good chance you’ve seen their funding at work. Perhaps you’ve taken a stroll on the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail over Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, for which they were a major contributor. Maybe you’ve taken your children out for some fun at one of the many local parks that St. David’s has helped improve. Their vision to “make Central Texas the healthiest community in the world,” continually leads them to take on initiatives such as medical research, parks improvement, and funding affordable and quality healthcare for lower-income residents.

Capital IDEA has been privileged to have a strong and healthy relationship with the St. David’s Foundation for more than 10 years. Over this decade, St. David’s has invested in excess of $6 million in Capital IDEA. That funding has provided high-quality education and training to hundreds of low-income students pursuing rewarding careers in the healthcare industry.

Nancy Quiroz at ACC Job Fair 2018

One of those students is Nancy Quiroz. Nancy achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse in the spring of 2018, and is now employed at St. David’s Medical Center as a RN Resident in the Intensive Care Unit. According to Nancy, in the zip code where she came from, 25% of the population lived below the poverty level. “Working to help pay the bills and contribute to their home usually outweighed the cost of going to college.” Nancy now sees herself as a role model and shares what she’s learned to help others in similar circumstances. In addition, Nancy also gives back to the community through charitable work with organizations such as the Special Olympics, Central Texas Food Bank, and the Ronald McDonald House. Thanks to the support of the St. David’s Foundation, Nancy’s future is bright.

Nancy is one of many whose life has changed through the community-building efforts of the St. David’s Foundation. More recently, the Foundation provided Capital IDEA with a grant to grow the number of nursing students in Hays County. This is significant as most of Capital IDEA’s funding is limited to Travis County and the City of Austin. Amy Silvey, Director of Development at Capital IDEA, explains it this way: “We recognize the need across Central Texas, but restrictions on funding make it difficult. That’s why flexible funders like St. David’s Foundation are so important to help us grow and meet the need. We hope it will encourage other funders to do the same.”

Prior to the St. David’s expansion grant, only two RN students were enrolled from Hays. Since receiving St. David’s funding, 56 nursing students from Hays County have been recruited. The expansion grant was also a key component, as Corridor Interfaith advocated to the Hays County Commissioners Court to approve a financial investment in Capital IDEA. With this new local funding, Capital IDEA is able to provide Hays County adults with the opportunity to change the trajectory of their lives and enter promising careers in the healthcare industry.

The impact of the St. David’s Foundation across Central Texas is immeasurable. Capital IDEA is excited to highlight St. David’s Foundation as our Partner Spotlight this month, not only to shine a light on the recent support for Hays County but to also thank our partner for their ongoing generosity and commitment to creating opportunities for people to live healthy and fulfilling lives. We look forward to continuing a strong partnership for many years to come.

St. David’s Foundation has asked its partners to help spread the word about the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. Over one million Texans will purchase ACA insurance plans this year, and you can join them. You must apply by December 15th. This year, your healthcare premium may be lower than you think! Get a premium estimate using this calculator provided by St. David’s Foundation:


Thank you for your interest in Capital IDEA! We do not currently have any job openings, but as soon as we do, we’ll post the open position here, as well as on these job boards:

Employer Profile – What’s it Like to Work at Capital IDEA?

At Capital IDEA, we aim to empower our income-eligible neighbors with training and education so that they can fill a critical need in our community for caring, skilled, and highly motivated workers. Since our founding in 1998, more than 1,600 Central Texans have launched new careers and secured a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Capital IDEA has built a diverse and dedicated team that shares a passion for our mission. We reward performance through competitive salaries and merit-based raises. While we expect our team to go above and beyond in service to our community, we also believe that you must take care of yourself to take care of others. We offer a generous benefits package which includes a week of sick leave, two to four weeks of vacation (based on experience), plus extra paid time off for everyone during the holidays: we close from December 24th through January 1st every year. We provide medical, dental, and vision insurance, plus a three percent match on retirement contributions. When you join our team, you’ll have high expectations to meet and big goals to work towards. You’ll also have a team who supports you, and you’ll know you’re making a difference.


Capital IDEA students have been placed in new careers


Most graduates TRIPLE their previous earnings


was the average starting wage for all 134 job placements in 2019 including 15 early placements


individuals received direct support from Capital IDEA in 2019


has been invested in our students’ tuition and books since Capital IDEA first opened in 1998

Guide Star Gold

News & Events

Partner Spotlight: Seeds of Strength

PUBLISHED AUGUST 13, 2020 “Women coming together to make a difference.” This statement sits atop the Seeds of Strength (SoS) website, a giving circle based in Georgetown, Texas. It is a strong statement that perfectly describes the core of who SoS is, and what they’re all about. This group of women, ranging in ages from […] Read More

For previous stories visit us here

Receive News & Updates

If you’d like to keep up with our success stories and newest milestones,
sign up for our newsletter today!

News and Update