In the early 1990’s, sparked by a belief that Austin could benefit enormously from a program that mentored high-school students in both personal accountability and environmental stewardship, Jack Goodman and Wes Halverson led an effort to create Austin Youth River Watch.
With initial funding and long-term support from the City of Austin and LCRA, we began teaching students to collect and track water-quality data. Students also learned leadership skills and were encouraged to stay in school.
Today, our core program remains the same, and we now serve about 115 students per year from 10 high schools in the Austin Independent School District. Our success rate speaks for itself: The high school graduation rate of our River Watch Seniors is nearly 100%.
In the early days, Austin Youth River Watch’s first Program Director was Dani Apodaca, and Dani’s creativity and energy were essential in creating and building our core program. (Remember, this combination of drop-out prevention and long-term environmental stewardship had never been tried before!) In 1999, after establishing a sustainable and well-respected program at Austin Youth River Watch, Dani joined the staff at LCRA; today, he is our primary liaison with LCRA, through their Colorado River Watch Network. (Learn more about CRWN here.)
After Dani left, the next Program Director at Austin Youth River Watch was a young woman who had been one of Dani’s earliest students, Elisabeth Welsh. Elisabeth remains the Program Director to this day, and she has overseen the growth of the organization, adding a Program Coordinator in 2008 and then helping the Board to hire the organization’s first paid Executive Director in 2010. (Learn about our staff here.)