The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and Texas Grants Resource Center hosted the final Front Porch Gathering of the year on November 30th, 2023 at the Windsor Park Branch Austin Public Library in collaboration with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and the Hispanic Austin Leadership Program (HAL). The Front Porch Gathering was attended by UT students, staff, alumni, and Austin community members. Upon arrival, attendees were served a catered meal while they took some time to socialize with the other guests prior to the start of the event.
The CCE hosted this Front Porch Gathering to help provide mental health resources to members of the Austin community and to educate individuals on the benefits of collective mental health prioritization, especially in communities that often lack the support. Guests were split into smaller break-out groups initially to allow for greater participation during the event.
The event began with some opening remarks and introductions from the CCE’s Director of Community-Driven Initiatives, Stephanie Lang, as well as from her colleague and Director of the Texas Grants Resource Center, Amy Loar. Amy provided more information on the work of the Texas Grants Resource Center and how to be connected to potential funding opportunities through the center. After the introductory remarks, the storytellers from HAL, Enrique Castro and Stephanie Gatica, shared incredible personal anecdotes on their own experiences within the Latino/Hispanic community surrounding mental health and shared community resources for those seeking support. Following the storytellers, Vicky Coffee from the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health presented on mental health in our communities across Texas, the funding approaches of the Hogg Foundation, and mental health resources and support.
After hearing the incredible stories and presentations from the guest speakers, attendees were asked to convene with their breakout groups and share their own personal experiences around mental health. Each group had a discussion lead, who were staff members of the CCE, to guide the conversation around key takeaways and share-outs. Discussion leads were given a list of questions as a guide, but participants were welcome to share any and all experiences they had surrounding mental health.
Across the three groups, there was general consensus that COVID-19 brought the conversation of mental health to the forefront of many people, in both personal and professional spaces. Attendees highlighted how the surge in mental health prioritization allowed for more community support spaces in their own communities and greater access to the necessary resources. Additionally, some attendees felt that spaces that were traditionally not focused on mental health, such as work, school, family gatherings, were now more aware of the benefits and need for that. In regards to what attendees felt could be helpful in closing gaps to accessibility, many felt that technology and community-based support could help bridge the lack of access some individuals still face.
After sharing reflections from the breakout groups, Stephanie Lang closed out the event with final remarks and additional information on connecting with the speakers’ resources, as well as encouraging participation in future CCE programming. The final Front Porch Gathering of the year was a success and the CCE is excited to begin planning programming for the new year. Keep a look out on the CCE website for any future upcoming events and community resources!