Women are building mental health and community wealth in Austin and beyond.


By Shonté Jovan Taylor, M.Sc., Ph.D.(c). Illustration courtesy Of Shonté Jovan Taylor, M.sc., Ph.d.(c)

In the bustling heart of Austin, a city known for its vibrant culture and pioneering spirit, a remarkable movement is underway. A movement propelled by women who have decided to turn their backs on passivity, opting instead for active participation in the shaping of their communities and the wider world. This narrative is not just about socializing or networking, in the traditional sense. It’s about leveraging those connections for the greater good, transforming lives and societies in profound ways.

Social interactions, the fabric of human existence, play a pivotal role in our well-being. Neuroscience tells us that engaging with others helps in the development of neural networks, essential for combating mental health challenges such as loneliness and depression. These interactions trigger the release of endorphins and oxytocin, fostering feelings of happiness, trust and love. Critical components of a healthy, thriving society.

However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the imperfections within our social structures, which sometimes fail to include or adequately support various groups, including women, children, people of color, rural populations or neurodivergent thinkers. These systemic gaps in education, finance, health and social support create barriers to equality, equity and progress.

Yet amidst these challenges, there are luminaries who refuse to stand idly by. In Austin, and across the globe, women are making significant strides in closing these gaps, championing causes that resonate deeply with their personal convictions and professional expertise. These women are not only making a difference; they are redefining what it means to impact society positively.

Social impact efforts in Austin span across diverse sectors, from Texas Rep. Barbara C. Jordan passionately defending the Constitution during the 1974 Nixon impeachment hearings, championing fairness and laws for marginalized communities, to Councilwoman Kimberly Holiday’s dedication to housing the unhoused. Find inspiration in trailblazers like Dr. Roz Oliphant Jones, who through her annual African American book festivals, perseveres in safeguarding African American literature despite book bans.

Courtney Santana, a prominent musician based in Austin, wholeheartedly supports abuse survivors through the Survive2Thrive Foundation, which offers housing and vital resources to those in need. Former Mayor Steve Adler declared March 3 as Courtney Santana Day to honor her contributions.

Austin is also home to community leader and coach Rose Smith, acclaimed for her dedication to serving the community. She is renowned for coordinating meal deliveries for seniors and leading yearly initiatives to donate school supplies, benefiting thousands of children. On a global scale, tech entrepreneur and women leader Ingrid Vandervelt aims to empower a billion women financially, demonstrating the vast scope of these endeavors.

Futurist and educator MacKenzie Price, the visionary behind Alpha School in Austin, is transforming conventional education through an innovative two-hour academic teaching model. This groundbreaking approach, which has been shown to double students’ learning capacity in comparison to a traditional six-hour day, nurtures their passions in areas like fashion, film, invention and computer science. This shift is particularly significant in response to the pandemic and the surge in online learning, addressing the challenges posed by limited teacher availability.

These women are reshaping the narrative of what’s achievable. Yet such monumental tasks are not shouldered alone. Behind every successful initiative is a team of volunteers and collaborators, embodying the essence of teamwork and empathy. Studies, including those reported in the Harvard Business Review, highlight that women, in particular, excel in team leadership roles, thanks to their innate abilities for empathy and collaboration.

The ripple effects of these endeavors contribute to a form of wealth that transcends mere financial gains. By nurturing a solid foundation of mental, emotional, educational and spiritual well-being within communities, these women are building a legacy of prosperity that will endure for generations. Their work, often unseen and unsung, represents the epitome of dedication and perseverance.

So, to those making waves in the realms of social impact, know that your contributions are invaluable. Your work, often behind the scenes and beyond the limelight, is creating a cascade of positive change that reaches far and wide. Let this article serve as a tribute to your dedication, a source of inspiration for others to follow in your footsteps, and a call to action for everyone capable of contributing to this noble cause.



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