Friday night, The Brooklynite will host Awesome SA‘s $1,000 grant award ceremony at 516 Brooklyn Ave. The event is free but space is limited, so those interested in attending should register at Doors open at 6 p.m. and the winner will be announced after the finalists’ brief presentations to the crowd at 7 p.m. Afterwards, of course, everyone is invited to mingle and celebrate as the Brooklynite reopens to the public at 8 p.m.

UPDATE from Friday night: Cassandra Faus, founder of Mobile Om – a traveling donation-based yoga class that has taken place on the Hays Street Bridge, Richter Co. clothing company lobby, and now Rackspace – took home the $1,000 Awesome SA grant during Friday night’s event at the Brooklynite. More than 30 people gathered, many with a finely crafted cocktail in hand, to hear the announcement and applaud Faus for her work. Faus said that she’ll be stocking up on yoga mats and supplies for the Mobile Om VW van and looking to expand to more locations in the future. 

Yoga with a view from the Hays Street Bridge. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Yoga with a view. The sun begins to set over downtown San Antonio during a recent Mobile Om session on the Hays Street Bridge. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The local chapter of the Boston-based Awesome Foundation grants $1,000 monthly to one individual, group, startup, or organization with the most “awesome” proposal. More than $673,000 has been awarded in more than 50 cities combined, that’s 673 projects.

Edward Garcia holds up his $1,000 Awesome SA grant certificate for a photo with Awesome SA board and trustees. Courtesy photo.
Edward Garcia of SATX Pedal Power holds up his $1,000 Awesome SA grant certificate for a photo with Awesome SA board and trustees. Courtesy photo.

Read about August’s event here: “We Have A Winner, SATX Pedal Power: Boneshakingly Awesome.”

Awesome SA will be celebrating its one year anniversary on Oct. 26, 5-7:30 p.m. at a location yet to be determined. Read about the local chapter and how it got its start here: “Amazing! The Awesome Foundation Spreads to San Antonio.”

Photo by Awesome SA Dean Claudia Loya.
Photo by Awesome SA Dean Claudia Loya (via Instagram).

Ten trustees, including The Rivard Report, contribute $100 each and a 10-member board selects 3-5 finalists out of an average of 6-8 applicants per month. Many past winners have applied several times for the grant before striking gold, so everyone is encouraged to re-apply.

The following are September’s finalists, as described in their own words during the application process (though light formatting and editing has been applied).

Pat Medina: SAYL’s Reading Buddy Program

A little about me:

San Antonio Youth Literacy (SAYL) was founded in 1984 with a mission to promote the literacy skills of San Antonio’s at-risk youth. Since 1999 SAYL’s efforts have been directed toward younger children. It was at this time that our early elementary school student tutoring program was developed. This program is designed to partner with other community agencies, along with area elementary schools and school districts to provide reading tutors for children who are at risk of school failure.

Here’s my idea:

The SAYL’s Reading Buddy program utilizes volunteer reading tutors who work one-on-one with students in elementary schools and community centers in San Antonio.

SAYL serves primarily 2nd graders, all of whom are reading below grade level, and therefore under achieving when compared to their peers. Working with local elementary school teachers and reading specialists, children are identified who are at risk of school failure due to poor reading skills. These students are then matched with a tutor for participation in the program. Every student receives a minimum of 30 minutes of one-on-one tutoring by a community volunteer each week, for the entire school year.

Images courtesy of SAYL.
Images courtesy of SAYL.

The time spent with their tutor allows them the opportunity to practice the skills they learn in the classroom, build comprehension skills, and develop an enjoyment and appreciation of reading. In addition to supplying reading tutors to its participants SAYL also manages the reading curriculum; supplies all the books and materials used in the program, and monitors the children’s progress throughout the year. Tutoring sessions are structured and contain basic elements of reading and re-reading of familiar texts, word analysis activities, and introducing new stories.

Scholastic reading materials are used and are leveled according to the needs of each individual student. Assessments are given at different intervals throughout the program in order to continuously tailor the reading needs for each student.

How I will use the money:

SAYL does not charge a program fee for this service as over ninety percent (90%) of students participating in the SAYL’s Reading Buddy program are considered economically disadvantaged by their school district. Funding from The Awesome Foundation would allow SAYL to purchase supplies and books for one school. These supplies would give approximately 10-15 students the opportunity to participate in the program, thereby helping them to develop the skills that will be needed for future success.

Is your project a startup business?

No, our organization has been in existence since 1984.

How will this benefit San Antonio as a whole?

Reading difficulties at the elementary school level are far more common than many realize. By third grade, all children should be able to read, yet in some areas of San Antonio as many as 23% of third graders can’t read. Almost 75% of children who have trouble reading in the third grade continue to have reading problems, falling farther and farther behind. 10-15% drop out of school, and only 2% complete a four-year college degree. Almost half of young adults with criminal records or substance abuse problems have a history of reading problems. Texas ranks 47th among the 50 states in literacy, and San Antonio’s literacy rate is even lower than the state’s rate.

This program is designed to address this issue in an effort to insure 2nd graders will enter third grade reading on level, and thereby improving their chances of being successful in the future.

How did you hear about us?

Our Executive Director was fortunate to hear about your organization through her Facebook account.

Cassandra Fauss: Mobile Om

A little about me:

Eight years ago, I took my first yoga class looking to “get in better shape.” I had no idea that it would change my life forever. Learning to breathe through struggles on my yoga mat and listen to my intuition led me to do the same in my life. Yoga gave me tools to break free from mental limitations and open up to possibility. Now, I am mentally and physically stronger than I have ever been in my life and I am committed to sharing this life-changing practice with anyone and everyone I can.

Here’s my idea:

Mobile Om is San Antonio’s first and only mobile yoga studio. Mobile Om provides donation-based yoga classes that are free of pretension and welcoming to anyone and everyone who wants to practice. It is a yoga movement taking yoga out of the studio and into people’s everyday lives.

What makes Mobile Om awesome is that we provide no-nonsense yoga to everyday people in locations that are casual, inspiring and hyper local. People who have never stepped foot inside a studio feel at home in a Mobile Om class, whether it’s outside on the Hays Street Bridge overlooking the city’s skyline or inside the 100-year-old building that has been beautifully restored as the home of the Richter Co. clothing company.

Mobile Om rolled (it’s mats) out for the first time on the Hays Street Bridge on a Friday evening in June to share yoga and the beautiful view with our community. Twelve people showed up to that first class, and I was blown away. Through the Facebook page, word of mouth and an article in the Rivard Report, Mobile Om’s we have grown to host up to 45 people at and has introduced over 20 people completely new to yoga. We recently added a class in the lobby of the Richter Co. and created our first donation-based corporate yoga program at Rackspace Hosting.

Cassandra Fauss guides yoga students during a recent session on the Hays Street Bridge. Photo by Iris Dimmick.
Cassandra Fauss (center) guides yoga students during a recent session on the Hays Street Bridge. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

The vision for Mobile Om is to offer several classes every day at a wider variety of locations throughout San Antonio. Within each unique location, Mobile Om will create a consistent and authentic yoga space complete with the amenities of brick and mortar studios such as yoga mats, props, towels and water. I am currently renovating a 1972 VW Van that will serve as the transportation for the wandering studio and will keep all the goods needed to set up the temporary homes. All mats and props will be available for students to borrow free of charge.

How I will use the money:

Mobile Om would like $1000 to stock our wandering yoga studio.

The money would be used to purchase 20 new yoga mats, 20 yoga straps, 20 foam yoga blocks and 10 yoga bolsters to stock the Mobile Om wandering studio.

Here is a breakdown of exactly how the money will be spent:

20 Yoga Mats @ $16.50 = $330.00

20 Straps @ $6.95 = $139.00

20 Blocks @ $8.75 = $175 10

Bolsters @ $36.50 = $365

Total Spent: $1009 (I’ll take care of the $9, tax and shipping costs.)

Is your project a start up business?


How will this benefit San Antonio as a whole?

Mobile Om is on a mission to improve San Antonio’s wellbeing and create a community of people who are happy, healthy and free. As a mobile yoga studio, Mobile Om increases the accessibility of yoga to the community and by offering classes on a donation basis, financial issues are never a deterring factor.

How did you hear about us?

From my friend Brandon McKelvey who won the first Awesome SA grant to put solar panels on his food truck, Say.She.Ate.

Bobby Contreras: The Birthday Bunch

A little about me:

I love my wife Hannah, our daughters Ella and Olive, and I love Jesus. I am a pastor at Alamo Heights Baptist Church and SA Youth For Christ and I believe God brought Hannah and I here six years ago to share love.

Alamo Heights Baptist Church via Facebook.
Alamo Heights Baptist Church via Facebook.

Listening to the radio yesterday (Aug. 29) I heard about the Awesome SA. Such a wonderful idea! I could not sleep last night. I was praying for a way to make a difference in our community and in San Antonio.

Here’s my idea:

The Birthday Bunch is in a very early genesis, my goal is to celebrate kids and their Birthdays! There are a few lower-income apartments located on the outskirts of Alamo Heights. Every month we will, on a saturday or sunday, set up a party to celebrate those kids who have a birthday for that month.

So in a year that will mean 12 parties. My Hope is to grow teams of Birthday Bunch folks across the city.

How I will use the money:

Food: We will grill hotdogs and hamburgers. Soda, water, chips and of course a sweet cake!

Party decor: We want to make them feel special, so, the works! Streamers, table cloths, cups, plates, piñatas!

Gifts: My hope is to build relationships with these folks. We would hopefully find out what each child would like for their birthday and find a way to make it happen.

Is your project a start up business?

Just caring volunteers making a difference!

How will this benefit San Antonio as a whole?

By making kids feel special and cared for. Helping families celebrate their families. Helping families in need. Growing this to a city-wide effort – to every pocket in the city.

How did you hear about us?

Via Texas Public Radio, Awesome SA was featured on Aug. 29, 2013.

Related Stories:

$1,000 for wabiStory App: Placemaking via Digital Storytelling

Awesome SA <3?s 1005 Faces

Gallery: 1005 Faces by Sarah Brooke Lyons

Amazing! The Awesome Foundation Spreads to San Antonio

San Anto Cultural Arts & Awesome SA: Paletas, Bikes, Youth Engagement

UPDATE: January Awesome SA, $1,000 Towards a ‘No Kill’ San Antonio

$1,000 for Awesome Little Libraries

Who Will Win December’s $1,000 Awesome SA Grant? Find Out at Third Brewsday

Avatar photo

San Antonio Report Staff

This article was assembled by various members of the San Antonio Report staff.