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Hispanic Business Magazine Profiles Southwest Key

Michael Caplinger,

Hispanic Business Magazine

Apr 25, 2014

Hispanic Business Magazine
Hispanic Business

Southwest Key, No. 4 on the HispanicBusiness Top 25 Nonprofits list with $120.9 million in expenditures in 2013, is an organization dedicated to “improving the quality of life for children by providing culturally relevant schools, shelters for immigrant children, and youth and family services.” Founded in Austin, Texas, in 1987 by Dr. Juan Sanchez, Southwest Key has expanded to six states, providing services for nearly 226,000 clients in 2013.

Ribbon Cutting at Southwest Key

Ribbon Cutting at Southwest Key

The majority of the organization’s service-related expenses (80 percent) goes toward funding 17 shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children along the U.S.-Mexico border. The shelters provide basic needs, school, medical and mental health services and legal support in an effort to reunify the children with their families.

The goal of these programs, which are funded by the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement, is to establish permanency for the children. Nearly 8,700 immigrant youth were reunited with their families or sponsors in 2013.

Southwest Key also operates 43 programs for youth who have become involved in the juvenile justice system. The goal here is to keep children from being incarcerated and help them become productive members of society. The organization estimates that it helped divert over 3,100 youth from the prison system in 2013 alone.

Other services that Southwest Key provides include operating six schools for children who need additional support outside a traditional public school setting and providing childcare and workforce services for Hispanic parents in South Texas.

“Our history of pioneering and replicating innovative program models that successfully aid hard-to-reach youth has earned us the opportunity to partner with governmental agencies at every level, but what has really helped Southwest Key ride out economic downturns is our decision to diversify our services,” said Dr. Sanchez.

“We currently operate over 68 programs in six states across the fields of juvenile justice, alternative education, immigrant youth services, charter schools, adult employment services, adult education and social enterprises,” he added. “The diversity in our programming enables us to derive funding from a variety of sources, including private ones.”

Funding for the group comes primarily from federal grants and corporate and individual donations. But Southwest Key has come up with another innovative method of funding their services as well. They operate small businesses that provide jobs for low-income residents as well as additional funding for the organization. The businesses include a restaurant, a florist and a construction and remodeling company.

“We call our for-profit companies ‘social enterprises’ because they exist for more than just financial return,” said Dr. Sanchez. They provide jobs and “also help build assets for Southwest Key Programs that in turn can be used to support our community services.”

East Austin College Prep students at the 2013 Southwest Key Posada.

East Austin College Prep students at the 2013 Southwest Key Posada.

Southwest Key’s accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed. The National Council of La Raza named Southwest Key its affiliate of the year for 2013. The Austin Business Journal named Dr. Sanchez its 2012 Non-Profit CEO of the Year and CFO Melody Chung its 2013 Non-Profit CFO of the Year. — Michael Caplinger,

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