Houston’s newest greenspace was dedicated with fanfare and camaraderie on Tuesday, May 28. A parade led by the Lawson Academy Marching Band welcomed more than 50 students, political leaders, community members and Kinder Foundation leadership to the opening celebration of the SPARK Park at Lawson Academy, a neighborhood park on the school’s Third Ward campus.
In a series of blog posts throughout the year, we will highlight the progress made along each of Houston’s Bayou Greenways as part of the Houston Parks Board’s Kinder Foundation-supported Bayou Greenways 2020 project. This is the first in a series of posts.
Nearly six years ago, the Houston Parks Board announced a $50 million catalyst gift from the Kinder Foundation to support the ambitious Bayou Greenways 2020 initiative. Construction began at the end of 2014, and since then, Houston Parks Board (HPB) and its partners Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Harris County Flood Control District have made remarkable progress. Continue reading “Building the Bayou Greenways: Brays Bayou”
In Spring 2018, the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy embarked on a partnership with University of Oxford’s Corpus Christi College that provides Mizzou undergraduates with an opportunity to experience the scholastic life, unique pedagogy, and rich traditions of one of the globe’s most storied institutions.
The first program of its kind at Mizzou, “Global History at Oxford” is both an intellectually rigorous, on-campus experience for students and an immersive study abroad opportunity. The core component of the program is Kinder Institute Chair in Constitutional Democracy Jay Sexton’s “Topics in Global and Transnational History” class, a spring semester course that asks students to consider why national history emerged as the default method of studying the past and to examine the new, more complex narrative that is un-earthed by taking a more transnational approach. Continue reading “Mizzou in Oxford”
In September 2018, the Kinder Foundation donated $100,000 to Houston’s Blue Triangle Community Center to restore a historic Third Ward mural by famous African American artist John Biggers. The 1953 masterpiece, “Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education,” was damaged by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and was recently restored by Scott Haskins, a California-based conservator of fine art. The Foundation’s grant will also support building repairs in the vicinity of the mural.
Investing in education is a cornerstone of the Kinder Foundation’s philanthropic vision. Most recently, the Foundation and Houston Endowment partnered to support three different education-related initiatives. These include Leadership ISD, Good Reason Houston, and the establishment of an Education Research Center (ERC) at the University of Houston.
In 2006, the Texas Legislature identified the need to connect educational information sources into a longitudinal data warehouse for the use of policy and practice. It authorized the creation of three ERCs to house Texas data and facilitate research that benefits all levels of education in Texas.
The ERCs are meant to provide access to high quality, student-level data from the Texas Education Agency, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the Texas Workforce Commission, and other sources of educational information for the state of Texas. Data resources are intended to span from the Pre-K level through higher education and into the Texas workforce.
Prior to 2017, two ERCs had been established at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at Dallas, respectively. In November 2017, with $790,000 grants each from the Kinder Foundation and Houston Endowment, the third ERC was established at the University of Houston, providing local researchers access to the rich repository of data. Continue reading “New Education Research Center established in Houston”
On Monday, February 4, students, alumni and supporters dedicated the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts campus in downtown Houston. Long-awaited and highly-anticipated, the permanent new home of Kinder HSPVA was inaugurated with a ribbon cutting, entertainment and performances by students, and remarks by the school’s principal Dr. R. Scott Allen and HISD board members in the campus’ stunning 800-seat main gathering space, the Ruth Denney Theatre.
The completed 168,000-square-foot Kinder HSPVA campus opened to students on January 7. The February 4 grand opening ceremony offered a chance to reflect on the three-year construction project which puts Houston’s diverse and talented fine arts students in the heart of the city’s theater district.
Eighteen months after Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on Buffalo Bayou Park, the arduous silt removal process is mostly complete. The park’s destinations and gardens have been restored to their former glory thanks to Buffalo Bayou Partnership and its bevy of dedicated volunteers, donors, and partners, including the Kinder Foundation, which contributed $1 million to the cleanup efforts.
While the park took on historic levels of water (nearly 39 feet), its infrastructure was mostly undamaged. In fact, careful and considerate planning in the park’s design and development phase ensured Buffalo Bayou Park could withstand flooding and provide greater flood water conveyance capacity.
In March 2017, the Kinder Foundation provided a grant of $300,000 to Houston Community College to help launch its Z-Degree Program, with a goal of providing a complete Associate’s Degree program without any textbook costs. The vision was a pilot program to allow students to earn either an Associates of Arts degree in business administration or an Associates of Science degree in multi-disciplinary studies. The grant also supports the program’s staffing and promotion, and the development of Open Educational Resources (OER), the online course resources.
In just over a year, since its first semester in Fall 2017, the offerings of zero cost text book courses has grown to 2,042 students who partake in 24 courses across the Central Campus and Northline campuses (where Year 2 courses are also offered), and at the Spring Branch and Stafford campuses. HCC is tracking the student’s academic performance, with the opportunity to review and compare the effectiveness of face-to-face versus online classes, and Z-Degree versus non-Z-Degree programs. Continue reading “Progress Report: HCC’s Z-Degree Program”
For five local elementary schools, the excitement of the end of the school year coincided perfectly with the start of something else – the dedication of their individual SPARK parks. SPARK parks, community parks anchored by a school playground, are found in neighborhoods all across Houston, and while each and every one of those parks is a cause for celebration, May 2018’s whirlwind opening of so many parks in such a short amount of time was a notable moment even for this 35-year old non-profit.
Harvey Brown Elementary in Channelview ISD was the first in this series of dedications as they officially welcomed their park on May 17. Dunn Elementary (Aldine ISD) followed on May 29. Ashford Elementary (Houston ISD) and Woodview Elementary (Spring Branch ISD) shared the dedication day of May 31 before Raul Yzaguirre School for Success wrapped things up with their ribbon-cutting on the first of June.
With these five parks complete, more families will have access to a neighborhood park – modern playground equipment, trails, benches, trees, colorful flowers, and cheerful art installations can be accessed with a stroll down the street.
SPARK anticipates a 2018 tally of some 25 new parks (5 re-SPARKed parks) will be dotting the Houston-area landscape.
The exciting pace and enthusiasm with which these parks are being placed and embraced puts Houston on track toward being a more beautiful, connected place for us all.
Find a SPARK park near you.
The City Parks Alliance video series, “City Parks: America’s New Infrastructure” delves into the value of greenspaces and urban parks across the U.S. The five-part series, highlights parks’ many benefits and the ways cities are reevaluating the way they incorporate parks and greenspace into city planning and development projects and goes on to examine parks as they relate to the economy, resilience, transportation, and, finally, health and social value.
In the fifth in the series, the Foundation’s Guy Hagstette discusses the long-term investment of city parks. Watch the entire series here.