Author: United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

Inspiring the Next Generation to Leave North Texas Better Than They Found It

Vanessa Salinas Beckstrom: Michael, you’ve mentioned that being a leader can come with challenges. Talk to us about that and how you ensure you’re holding your own in key conversations and decisions when you’ve encountered those challenges.

Michael Thomas: I’ve been the executive director at My Possibilities now for 13 years. And I will say that when you’re in your 20s and early 30s, it’s challenging to gain the respect necessary to really make decisions or challenge decisions. There’s an element of being bold and just doing it over and over again until the people in the room finally nod and say, “Yeah, this guy isn’t terrible.”

The interesting challenge now is, 13 years ago I was the young person on staff, and now I’ve got a bunch of Gen Z, fresh out of college. My challenge today is ensuring that my staff who are baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, Gen Z and incoming Alpha are all jibing in the same culture. That’s tough.

Beckstrom: Ashley, what inspired you to give back and focus on the community?

Ashley Sharp: I began my career in the arts, and there came a point where I couldn’t watch someone pay $5 million for a piece of art and then complain about their seating at a fancy dinner and then do nothing for the people who are asking for money on the streets. That was a huge eye-opener for me. On my son’s second birthday, I woke up to a text message from my now ex-husband, and it said he had been arrested for his fifth DUI….After seeing that things were not going to change, I packed up my child in the middle of the night, I put my clothes in trash bags and I left.

I have a master’s degree, I had a good job—but I was homeless. I was literally living in my car. It can happen to anybody at any time. And Dwell with Dignity came along at the perfect moment. I don’t just empathize with our families; I am our families. We know what it’s like to not have a safe place of your own, and I don’t want that for any family in Dallas. The work that we do isn’t just important; it’s my life.

Beckstrom: As you’ve grown in your career, how do you balance all the demands that confront you and ensure that you stay centered on your mission of community engagement?

Harsh Agarwal: It’s hard. A good friend recently told me there are three stages of life: learning, earning and returning. You spend the first third of your life going to school and college, get a job and work until you retire, and then you start giving back. My dad was in that mode. He was a very successful executive in India. But he didn’t get a chance to get to the returning phase. So for me and my brother, we have a responsibility, what I call the burden of our family wealth, to be stewards of this capital. And when I heard about the “learning, earning, returning,” I thought, “That’s BS.” Why can’t we learn throughout our lives, why can’t you earn throughout your life and why can’t you return throughout your life?

Beckstrom: What actions are you looking to take to continue to drive impact on a bigger scale, and what advice do you give to those in the room that want to do the same and bring along others in their generation?

Short: I think the biggest thing for us as a nonprofit is that we don’t actually operate on a traditional philanthropic funding model. We operate on earned revenue. Sixty-five percent of the money that comes to Dwell with Dignity is through our thrift store, Thrift Studio. By buying a building, we’re able to increase our impact, because now something that used to be a four-week pop-up is going to be generating revenue throughout the year. Thinking of things from an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset is going to be the big thing for nonprofits as we look to scale. The old fundraising models have to go away. We need to be taking bold action.

I also think our generations are going to be able to engage in new ways. We always say that we want your time, your talents and your treasures. There are so many talents out there; don’t think that you just have to give your money. There are so many ways to get your hands dirty. I invite everyone to find something that you’re passionate about, something that speaks to your soul and go all in.

Agarwal: I actually disagree that we can’t all give back. It could be $5, $10. The money is important to the nonprofit, but to you, just giving a small amount will bring you more joy. The act of giving is more powerful than anything. So I say, automate it, just like your 401(k) contribution.

Thomas: The last couple years have really pulled momentum away from the nonprofit sector. It’s beginning to move now, and the organizations that are going to make the biggest impact in Dallas and the surrounding communities are the ones with the biggest vision and the boldest plan to go do it. My thought there is, look for the organizations that are talking big—who say, for example, we want to get rid of homelessness in Dallas—that’s the org that you should be getting into. My hope, in the next 10 years or so, as you all are getting into the philanthropic world, wherever you find your passion, dig in and stay committed. Philanthropy doesn’t change overnight, so find what you care about and commit to becoming a key part of the organization’s growth.

Be Part of the Next Generation of Change-Seekers

Lead change in our community with Emerging Leaders, a passionate group of 35-and-under change-seekers who work together to improve access to education, income and health in North Texas. As a member of Emerging Leaders, you’ll get to leverage your unique skills to create lasting change in our community. Meanwhile, you’ll enjoy rewarding experiences, unique networking opportunities and the chance to develop both personally and professionally.

Click here to learn more about joining Emerging Leaders.

After Debut Night, Graduates of Our First All-Woman Social Innovation Incubator Cohort Are Ready to Change Lives

Last month, the first all-woman cohort of our Social Innovation Incubator took a meaningful step: Eighteen inspiring social entrepreneurs presented their ventures to an engaging room of North Texas change-seekers at Debut Night—the culmination of their 12-week experience in the Incubator program.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, social innovation is part of everything we do to improve access to education, income and health. The Social Innovation Incubator is one example of our social innovation work in action. Its mission is to address historical opportunity and resource gaps, as well as systemic racial and gender inequities, in the social innovation sector in North Texas.

Read on to learn more about our most recent Incubator cohort and their inspiring achievements at Debut Night, as well as the committed community members who help make this initiative possible.

Social Innovators Make Their Big Debut

The Incubator provides an organizational and leadership development program exclusively for early-stage social ventures led and staffed by women and people of color. The social innovation team at United Way developed this initiative specifically for social entrepreneurs who are working to implement new and creative solutions to pressing problems facing North Texans in the areas of education, income and health.

Each Incubator cohort goes through an intensive learning process, during which they refine and validate their business plans, receive leadership coaching and mentorship, and learn about key topics like marketing and branding.

Their experience culminates on Debut Night, when each entrepreneur has an opportunity to showcase their work to some of North Texas’ most passionate community leaders. Much like The Pitch caps off the work of our Social Innovation Accelerator fellows, Debut Night is a chance to showcase the work of emerging entrepreneurs who have been historically impacted by the opportunity and resource gaps that exist for women and entrepreneurs of colors specifically.

Part of United Way’s investment is to provide financial, human and social capital to our Incubator participants. The financial support comes in the form of a $2,500 seed investment upon completion of programming, while the program provides human capital through leadership coaching from professional mentors. Debut Night boosts the social capital side by allowing founders to leverage the relationships within United Way’s vast network, which creates a promising pathway to good exposure and meaningful relationships.

As Jasmine Hillman, senior manager of innovation at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, explains, “I see Debut Night as a larger platform to say, look out for the next great innovators who will use their bold and creative solutions to contribute to healthier and stronger communities in the areas of education, income and health.”

A Night of Innovation and Impact

During the March 21 Debut Night, 18 of the Incubator entrepreneurs presented to United Way team members; United Way Women of Tocqueville supporters and members; and the night’s judges, Dee Brown, senior manager of strategy at Accenture, Cassandra McKinney, executive VP of Comerica Bank and former United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Women of Tocqueville chair, and Mandy Price, the founder and CEO of Kanarys™.

The entrepreneurs who presented were:

  • LaToya Thomas, S.E. Charities
  • Jill Nastasia, Fearless Dallas
  • Heather Villagomez and Elizabeth Garrison, Notre Dame School STAR Program
  • Jennifer Hills and Krystal Hills, The Leadership Academy of Creative Arts (TLACA)
  • Empriss Bennett-Moreno, Mindset Solutions MultiMedia
  • Elizabeth Price, NSPIRE Tutors
  • Cortina Jackson, Cortina’s Venture
  • Kayla Mainja, Helen’s Project
  • Latasha Cummings, We Are HER
  • Rae Phillips, Reading Huddle
  • Sherri Cook, Wholly Informed Sex Ed
  • Olufeyikemi Ibitayo, Generational Shift USA
  • Monique Muhammad, Code Pink Productions Inc.
  • Patricia Brackens, World Explorers of America
  • Tamia Parker, Commissary is Very Necessary
  • Prinscilla Moore, Delighted to Doula
  • Toneisha Qualls, Mind Molders
  • Star Jackson, SerenelyStar Publishing

This Incubator cohort also included Jasmine Fain of ENPWR U.

Our panel of judges evaluated each participant’s business plan, community impact and scalability. Then they and the live audience cast their votes for Most Innovative, Most Impactful and Audience Choice Award.

This year’s winning entrepreneurs were:

  • Rae Phillips of Reading Huddle, Most Innovative
  • Kayla Mainja of Helen’s Project, Most Impactful & Audience Choice Award
  • Star Jackson of SerenelyStar Publishing LLC, Runner-Up for Most Innovative

Congratulations again to all our graduates and to the Debut Night winners!

Investing in Women Entrepreneurs

We are incredibly grateful to our cohort and award sponsors—The Eugene McDermott Foundation and Comerica Bank, as well as the United Way Women of Tocqueville Fund for Women and Children. Each has committed to investing in women-led nonprofits and businesses, and we are so inspired by their generosity.

The Women of Tocqueville Fund for Women and Children was founded in 2017 specifically to provide targeted financial and skill-based investments in the areas of education, income and health for North Texas women and children.

“Our goal through the Women of Tocqueville Fund is to encourage an equitable economic environment in which all women and children can achieve financial stability,” said Robbi Luxbacher, chair of the Women of Tocqueville Advisory Fund. “We chose to invest in United Way’s Social Innovation Incubator because it allows us to directly impact women entrepreneurs, who often face greater obstacles in launching a business or nonprofit. The inspiring women in this year’s cohort are developing innovative solutions to long-standing community challenges, and the Women of Tocqueville Fund is honored to help fund this important work.”

“This marks the first-ever Women of Tocqueville-led fund at any United Way in the country,” said fund co-founder Kristy Faus. “As WOT members, empowering women and children are the pillars of our organization and are at the center of all we do.”

“During the pandemic, we had an opportunity to sit back, think and try to imagine what things were going to be like on the other side of it—who would be most hurt that we might partner with when the pandemic was over,” said fund co-founder Carol March. “We felt it was important that the fund lift up other women and elevate our purpose. More than the socializing and networking, the WOT Fund gives us a cohesive and tangible purpose that is really resonating.”

The fund, which has raised more than $16.5 million, will be a source of permanent support and provide annual distributions for programs that create opportunity and access for women and children to thrive.

Thank you again to our mighty Women of Tocqueville supporters and members who helped make Debut Night a success, including: Jennifer Sampson, Rachel C. Ybarra, CPA, CGMA, Rachel B. Simon, Kristy Faus, Carol March, Neena Newberry, Lynn Fisher, Jerome Rose, Tyler Riddell, Leadership MBA, Linda Yohe, Nancy LaVerde, Kate Newman, Stacy Dunton, Ellen Barker and Michelle Thomas.

Learn More About the Fund for Women and Children

The Women of Tocqueville Fund for Women and Children is a powerful force for lasting change in North Texas. Interested in learning more? Visit the fund’s website.

New Year Message from Mandy Austin, Women of Tocqueville Chair

Happy New Year Brilliant Women of Tocqueville!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and that you had time to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. It was such fun to celebrate the holiday season with many of you at WOT Joy! graciously hosted by Neiman Marcus in December. WOT Joy! is aptly named because the joy in the room absolutely radiated amongst us as we came together in fellowship to celebrate the season and to raise funds for our upcoming Virtual Baby Shower benefitting expectant mothers in need.

As I reflect on the past year, my heart is filled with gratitude for each of you, our mighty, mighty Women of Tocqueville, whose commitment, inspiration, and passion for driving positive change in North Texas is unwavering and unrivaled. Whether compiling “Cups of Cheer” teacher appreciation gifts, directing investments for our WOT Fund for Women and Children, coordinating Lunch with Legislators in support of UWMD’s advocacy work, or attending WOT Connections and DINE! events, your engagement is what drives our impact—and this impact is what will make North Texas the best place to live, work, and raise a family for all of us. Thank you for being such a bright light in our community in 2022!

As we look ahead to the New Year, I am excited for the many opportunities that we will have to shine our collective light on the issues facing North Texas. Many of our signature events are coming soon! Please plan to join us in support of our next generation of philanthropic leaders at Most Generous Next Generation presented by PwC and supported by Vistra in late January. Then in February, many of the mighty WOT Steering Committee, Advocacy Advisory Committee, and Tocqueville Society will travel to the State Capitol in Austin to advocate and support UWMD’s legislative priorities in the areas of education, income, and health to expand access to opportunity across North Texas. These education and advocacy events will be followed by even more ways to engage—United Way’s Reading Day presented by EY in March, the Virtual Baby Shower in April, and our Career/Mentorship Day in May. We will also continue to host our WOT2Eat/Drink Connections events to provide plenty of opportunities for relationship building amongst this wonderful group—because we know that when we bring this mighty group of change-makers together, big ideas happen, big plans come together, and big change is made!

As we reflect on the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday earlier this week, I am inspired by Dr. King’s legacy of service, courage, and determination to build a society where all people enjoy the benefits of equality. The journey to achieve this vision is ongoing, and so it is an honor to serve alongside each of you in 2023 as we drive transformative change in our community so that all North Texans can thrive.

May the New Year bring you new hope, new opportunities, and much joy as together we LIVE UNITED!


Mandy J. Austin
2022-2023 Women of Tocqueville Chair
Dallas Market President, Bank of Texas

Job Training

Job Training Resources

Our community partners offer job training programs that enable hard-working individuals to gain new skills, advance their careers and move closer to the goal of financial stability.

See below for a current list of available job training and certification programs. For more information or to enroll, please contact the program directly.

Category: Healthcare

Program Length Details
Community Health Worker (CHW) 12 weeks; Thursday nights 6-8:30
Benefits:Opens doors to careers in nursing, respiratory therapy and medical lab technician roles, with starting pay of $22-$35/hour upon completion and hire
Also includes: Career counseling, digital skills, financial coaching, job leads/search/placement, retention support, interviewing/resume skills, professional skills training, referrals for transportation and childcare assistance
Requirements: Completion of 8th-grade reading level pre- and post-assessment, diploma or GED, ID or drivers license

Cost: $25 non-refundable application fee (scholarship available)
Format: Distance learning
Location: ZIP codes served: 75215, 75217, 75223, 75218, 75216, 75210, 75227

Email or call 971-460-6316

PCT, EKG, CPR and Phlebotomy Certification, offered by Oak Cliff Works 26 weeks; Monday to Friday 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Benefits: Opens doors to careers in health care with Methodist, with potential starting pay of $15-$16/hour
Also includes: Career counseling, financial coaching, job leads/search/placement, retention support, interviewing/resume skills, professional training skills
Requirements: Dallas residents with a high school diploma or GED paying 80% of Dallas HUD metro fair market rents and living at 125% below poverty level; must provide drivers license or ID, birth certificate, social security card, COVID vaccine card, immunization record, utility bill, pay stub for 1 month for all employed in household, health insurance card, social security card and birth certificate for children under 18, SNAP award letter, if applicable

Cost: Covered by Scholarship
Format: In person
Location: Multiple locations: 400 S. Zang Blvd., Dallas College, Methodist Hospital, Charlton Methodist Hospital

Email Kiyundra Jones at or call 214-943-4567

Phlebotomy 12 weeks; Tuesday-Thursday 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. OR Tuesday and Thursday nights 6-9 p.m.
Benefits: Opens doors to careers in nursing, respiratory therapy and medical lab technician roles, with starting pay of $22-$35/hour upon completion and hire
Also includes: Career counseling, digital skills, financial coaching, job leads/search/placement, retention support, interviewing/resume skills, professional skills training, referrals for transportation and childcare assistance
Requirements: Completion of 8th-grade reading level pre- and post-assessment, diploma or GED, ID or drivers license

Cost: $25 non-refundable application fee (scholarship available)
Location: 2922 MLK Junior Blvd., Suite 131 Dallas

Email or call 971-460-6316

Category: Technology

Program Length Details
Helpdesk support technician, desktop analyst, business analyst, junior network admin, aq analyst, intelligence or infrastructure analyst, junior project manager 23 weeks: 16-week virtual instructor-led training, plus 7-week paid internship opportunity. Monday through Friday 9 AM-1 PM or 2-6 PM
Benefits: Teaches tech fundamentals and results in CompTIA ITF+, A+ and Google IT Support/Project Management certificate
Also includes: Also includes: Career counseling, digital skills, financial coaching, job leads and placement, retention support, job search, interviewing skills, resume writing and professional skills training
Requirements: No pre-skills or qualifications needed; must be 18-26 years of age, with high school diploma or equivalent and legally authorized to work in the U.S. Also must be one of the following: transitioning active-duty service member through the DoD SkillBridge program, honorably discharged or member of the Guard or Reserves

Cost: FREE
Format: 100% virtual learning followed by in-person internship or job placement
Location: 1402 Corinth St., Suite 137, Dallas

Email Jonathan Pride at

Digital marketing and e-commerce, IT support, data analytics, project management, UX design, cybersecurity analyst, sales development rep, sales operations, social media marketing, front-end/back-end developer Approximately 6 months (5-10 hours a week)
Benefits: Earn official certifications for Google, IBM, Salesforce and Meta development, marketing, sales, etc. Starting pay after completion and hire beginning at $48,000.
Also includes: Retention support, job search, professional skills training
Requirements: High school diploma or equivalent, English-language proficient, 18 years of age or older, U.S. resident

Cost: FREE
Format: Online
Location: 2922 MLK Junior Blvd., Suite 131 Dallas

Email or visit the American Dream Academy website. Click here for full program details.

Category: Logistics

Program Length Details
Forklift Certification 4 hours, once or twice a month
Benefits: $18.80/hour starting pay after completion and hire
Also includes: Career counseling, digital skills, financial coaching, job leads/search/placement, retention support, interviewing/resume skills, professional skills training, transportation assistance

Cost: $80; free for qualified veterans
Format: Distance learning
Location: 8800 Ambassador Row, Dallas

Email Ed Vonder at

Professional Industrial Truck (PIT) 2-day training offered monthly
Benefits: $18.80/hour starting pay after completion and hire
Also includes: Career counseling, digital skills, financial coaching, job leads/search/placement, retention support, interviewing/resume skills, professional skills training, transportation assistance

Cost: Free (breakfast & lunch included)
Format: Distance learning
Location: 1133 S. Madison Ave., Dallas

Workforce Training Interest Form

Certified Logistics Associate (CLA) 3-day training offered twice a year
Benefits: Opens doors to high-growth logistics industry, with starting pay of $15/hour after completion and hire
Also includes: OSHA workforce safety training, job leads/search, resume writing, professional skills training
Requirements: high school diploma or equivalent, age 18+, ability to work in the U.S.

Cost: Free (breakfast & lunch included)
Format: Distance learning
Location: 1133 S. Madison Ave., Dallas

Workforce Training Interest Form

Certified Logistics Technician (CLT) 3-day training offered twice a year
Benefits: Opens doors to high-growth logistics industry, with starting pay of $15/hour after completion and hire
Also includes: OSHA workforce safety training, job leads/search, resume writing, professional skills training
Requirements: high school diploma or equivalent, age 18+, ability to work in the U.S.

Cost: Free (breakfast & lunch included)
Format: Distance learning
Location: 1133 S. Madison Ave., Dallas

Workforce Training Interest Form

Category: Miscellaneous

Program Length Details
ESL classes in partnership with Dallas College 14 weeks; Monday and Wednesday 9-11:30 AM

Benefits: Provides important prerequisite skills for most office jobs and for greater earning potential

Also includes: Digital skills, job leads/search, resume writing, professional skills training, childcare assistance Requirements: ID, no master’s degrees

Cost: Free
Format: In person
Location: 917 Bank St., Dallas

Email Julia Alessandra at or call 214-887-1364 ext. 260

Computer skills classes in partnership with Dallas College 4 weeks; Tuesday and Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Benefits: Provides important prerequisite skills for most office jobs and for greater earning potential

Also includes: Digital skills, job leads/search, resume writing, professional skills training, childcare assistance

Cost: Free
Format: In person
Location: 917 Bank St., Dallas

Email Julia Alessandra at or call 214-887-1364 ext. 260

IT and medical training, various industry certifications and navigation in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program and with Texas Workforce 4 weeks; Tuesday and Thursday 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Benefits:Interfaith provides a variety of services and training opportunities to assist workers in navigating the North Texas job market
Also includes: Career counseling, financial coaching, job leads/search, retention support, interviewing skills, resume writing, professional skills training, gas and bus passes, childcare assistance for those in job search (case by case)

Cost: Free

Email Joselyn Bustos at or call 214-827-7220 ext. 100

Certificate programs, associate or bachelor’s degree (trades included) Varies
Cost: Free
Format: In-person or virtual
Location: Dallas, Johnson or Tarrant County

Call the Educational Opportunity Center at 817-241-4141 or visit

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A Letter From Our CEO: Welcome to a New Year of Hope, Opportunity and Success

Dear North Texas Neighbors and Investors:

And so we begin…

A new year of hope, opportunity and success – along with some laughter and joy – stretches ahead of us with the change of the calendar. I’m looking forward to another BIG year in 2023: big ideas combined with bold action that will continue to deliver positive impact throughout North Texas.

Because of the support of our corporate, philanthropic and community partners and YOU, we ended 2022 with several notable accomplishments:

  • When local students missed out on learning opportunities because they lacked access to connectivity and digital technology, we partnered with AT&T to launch Digital Connections, providing more than 2000 free laptops to southern Dallas families.
  • When hard-working employees struggled to make ends meet, we enrolled hundreds more participants in Pathways to Work, enabling them to access better-paying jobs.
  • As the cost of healthcare continued to rise, our Healthcare Navigators assisted tens of thousands of families with accessing affordable, high-quality insurance plans.
  • And when we challenged our community to create an endowment to impact North Texas in perpetuity, you answered the call and we closed the groundbreaking $100 million Unite Forever endowment campaign over goal and three years ahead of plan. Huge thanks to everyone who supported the campaign. The impact these investments will have across North Texas is immeasurable.

You can take a deeper dive into the impact and outcomes of our programs and partnerships by reading our newly released 2021-2022 Impact Report. Together, we invested thousands of hours improving access to education, income and health for 1.5 million North Texans over the last year. This report captures our collective impact and is a great foundation for accelerating our work in the new year.

In 2023, with your continued support and partnership, we’ll build on the opportunities we created for North Texans to thrive by staying focused on our Aspire United 2030 goals to:

  • Increase by 50% the number of students reading on grade level by third grade.
  • Increase by 20% the number of young adults earning a living wage, adding nearly $800 million in wages per year in North Texas.
  • Increase to 96% the number of North Texans with access to affordable health care insurance.

Each new year is a fresh opportunity to collectively redouble our efforts to make North Texas a place where every single neighbor has the access and opportunity to thrive. And a new year brings new opportunities to play a part in creating lasting change right here at home. Exciting events and new initiatives in 2023 will ensure our Live United movement will create more opportunities for North Texans than ever before.

If you’re looking for some inspiration, please consider signing up to volunteer your time to share the magic of books with North Texas students on United Way Reading Day, March 3. Or plan to join us at The Pitch, our exhilarating social innovation competition where social entrepreneurs will have you on the edge of your seat as they compete for funding and the title Social Innovator of the Year on April 19th.

The new year also brings with it the biennial legislative session in Texas, so there will be many opportunities to raise your voice and advocate for state policy that impacts the building blocks of opportunity – education, income and health. Our profile in Austin and with other United Ways and community leaders around the state is important as we work for lasting change in Metropolitan Dallas. Some changes are possible on the ground here; others require advocacy in the form of policy changes in order to make them possible. Sign up today for our advocacy alerts so that you can stay informed and engaged.

This is just a quick preview of what’s ahead. Stay tuned for more opportunities to share your time, talent and treasure to drive impact for our neighbors across North Texas.

The level of widespread support and brainpower available to United Way and our own commitment to driving measurable outcomes in the areas of education, income and health are bound as never before. We will ensure successive generations of North Texans will receive education that leads to better jobs, more secure futures, and stronger health. We will produce change because you have united with us.

In closing, my wish for you is a peaceful and joyful January and a happy and healthy new year. Thank you for being an important part of our movement for change. You are what unites us. With your passion, dedication and support, 2023 will be another BIG year for United Way—and our community—where, together, we work to ensure our region is the best place for everyone to live, work and raise families.

Yours Gratefully,

Jennifer Sampson signature

Hear Policymakers’ Perspective on the 2023 Texas Legislative Session

The 88th Texas Legislature convenes on Jan. 10, 2023, and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is gearing up for a busy 140 days of advocacy. To prepare for this important time, on Thursday, Dec. 1, we hosted our annual Lunch with Legislators event, where local policymakers discussed some of the most important legislative topics that impact our region in the areas of education, income and health.

This year our panel included Sen. Nathan Johnson, Rep. Matt Shaheen and Rep. Carl Sherman, Sr., who came together to discuss the legislature’s likely priorities for the 2023 session, including issues such as the state’s electricity grid, teacher retention, mental health, Medicaid expansion, public education, the foster care system and more.

Our moderator was Sonal Shah, interim executive vice president at United Way Worldwide and incoming CEO of the Texas Tribune. The event was graciously presented by Haynes and Boone, LLP.

View the full event here:


Read on for highlights of their Q&A:

Sonal Shah: Rep. Shaheen, what are the priorities going to be for Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick and the Republican party this session?

Rep. Shaheen: We’ve got some significant issues that we’ll deal with. One will be the grid…Some of the other items will be infrastructure related. There’s about 100 people that move to North Texas every day, and they all have cars and they’re all thirsty. So we need reservoirs, roads, those types of things. Another item is education: It’s always a big focus. We have a lot of children throughout the state that have this really bad learning gap [after] learning virtually for the past two years. The communities where that gap is most prominent are our fastest growing communities in the state of Texas. That’s something we should all be losing sleep over, because that’s our future workforce. And our workforce is one of the reasons why we are so successful in the state of Texas. So God bless our teachers, our principals, our board members. This has been a tough two years for them, but they’ve really shined. But we have our work cut out for us.

Shah: Sen. Johnson, what do you see as some of the priorities coming up in the session for the Democratic Party?

Sen. Johnson: The grid is a bipartisan effort…and it’s going to be a top priority for everybody. It affects every business, every family, every household. We will also be working on infrastructure. I want to emphasize, however, that in addition to roads, airports, water systems, we also look at social infrastructure, and it echoes what Matt just said. Education is part of infrastructure—it’s our social infrastructure. Healthcare is infrastructure. These are the fundamental systems that have to be in place, that have to be effective, that have to be well run and well funded in order for our society to grow and for anyone to actually want to be here. Those things I think have been neglected. And the final thing that I think really ought to be a serious emphasis is government itself. We have agencies that have been systematically cut for a decade. I understand that we’re in lean times, and cuts have to be made. But we somehow develop this philosophy that if we make governments smaller and smaller, the better off we’ll be. And what we’re finding out is that our state agencies are unable to meet the needs of businesses and people who rely on them. Health and human services cannot keep employees. The Texas Juvenile Justice Department, foster care and the Department of Family Protective Services, they can’t run on less money.

Shah: Rep. Sherman, you’ve been a mayor. Now you’re in the state house. What are your priorities?

Rep. Sherman: There’s so much missing in our democracy: civility, concern. When you look at the [state’s] $27 billion surplus and $13 billion that’s in the rainy-day fund, and you look at all the needs that we have, and you think about our Judeo-Christian foundation, there’s a cognitive dissonance between what we do and our policies with all of the areas of concern that Sen. Johnson was talking about. It’s not a matter of whether we have the resources; it’s a matter of whether we have leaders who have the courage to actually fulfill what we say we’re driven by. And that is, for me, our Lord savior Jesus Christ. When you think about where we are allocating our resources, every time Texas is blessed with more, we do less for those who need it most…We’ve got to really have more of a conscience about being blessed with so much. We have over 1,100 people moving to Texas every day. Yes, we need to make sure that our infrastructure is there, and we will, but we’ve got to fix this democracy issue…that trust issue. There’s a reason folks don’t trust us. Because when we decide districts, we pick who our voters are going to be. If you’re in Illinois and you are a Republican, Lord help you. If you’re a Democrat in Texas, Lord help you. But most of all, Lord help the people, because it’s all partisan politics. And when we come into this next session, when you have a one-party rule, that’s not good.

Shah: Sen. Johnson, let’s go back to healthcare. U.S. News & World Report recognizes Texas as No. 9 in the economy and No. 31 on healthcare. There are persistent problems with our foster care system, with access to mental healthcare. What more can and should the state be doing to address these issues? And is there an appetite to expand Medicaid or create a Texas solution?

Sen. Johnson: In my view, it’s absolutely unequivocal that Texas should expand Medicaid. Thirty-nine states have done it. We’ve now seen North Carolina and Kansas both moving toward it. We just saw South Dakota with a referendum. We don’t have a referendum in Texas. We could pull in an extra $2 billion in state revenue and extra $2.5 billion in local revenue, all without a tax, and have people be healthier, reduce family bankruptcies, improve overall health and stabilize rural health systems. I know there’s a lot of people on the other side of the aisle who still have grave concerns about it. Do I think it’s going to pass this session? We have to have leadership get comfortable with it. And I don’t know if they are yet. They’ve been fairly quiet. I’ll continue to advocate for it. I expect Republicans and Democrats both to try to increase access to healthcare through smaller, vastly less effective means where we have a 60-40 governmental match instead of a 90-10. And I will support them because they’re good things to do, but they’re small, and we just need to improve overall how we do this. By the way, our state-administered Medicaid program is one of the nation’s best. It’s doing very, very well. It’s one of the most cost-efficient systems in the entire nation. And the conservatives were worried, rightly so initially, that Medicaid expansion would be a gigantic suck of money. But as it turns out, a Republican-led legislature has done a very good job of working with health systems to become more efficient. So I think it could be a politically safe time for everybody, irrespective of their ideology, to embrace Medicaid expansion and other systems. On the subject of mental healthcare, we do have some victories. Last legislative session, we had overwhelming support for a state mental health hospital in the Dallas area. We need to make sure we continue to support that. Given the overall bipartisan emphasis on mental health, it shouldn’t be a problem to continue the financial support that we need for the state mental health hospital…We as legislators look to experts in the community to help us craft the legislation that will improve Texas’ rather abysmal standing in mental health. And it is greatly needed right now.

Shah: Rep. Shaheen, do you see this legislative session looking at investing more in terms of mental health?

Sen. Shaheen: I think it’s appropriate to say that the state of Texas probably historically has been behind in the mental health area. But really since I’ve been here, at least the past eight years, we’ve been playing catch-up. One session alone, we appropriated about $500 million just to upgrade our facilities. If you look at the state budget and you look at all healthcare components, whether it’s mental health, Medicaid, we’re talking about $85 billion. It’s a significant amount of dollars. So the thing that we’ve been trying to do as a legislative body, is how do we most effectively deliver healthcare mental health across the state of Texas? From a mental health perspective, I think what you’re going to see this session is some additional funding, but we’ve got to figure out the most effective way to deliver that funding. A lot of it is going to be with our schools. And so how do our schools work with the mental health entity?

Shah: Rep. Sherman, another big chunk of the state budget is education. What do you see as some of the big issues coming in this session on education?

Rep. Sherman: I think we have to start with our teachers. Supporting our teachers is paramount to providing a premier education experience for our students. I believe we have to start with our retired teachers, so people understand that we actually do value educators. If I am looking at a career, I’m not looking at teaching because when a person who’s taught for 20, 30 years in our system [retires], they’re on their own and they’re not getting social security. We have to somehow have the courage to provide the resources needed for our teachers. I think that’s first and foremost, with more than 5 million students in our public education system. We’ve got to stop with the interest of defunding public education. And we should commit to supporting the teachers. Last year, 370,000 plus teachers were a part of education, and we had about 8,600 leave. We need to know why they’re leaving other than retiring. We have to focus on that career and ensure that we are rewarding them according to what we are saying.

Get Ready for the 2023 Legislative Session

The start of the 88th Texas Legislature is just weeks away, marking an important time for advocacy at United Way. We invite you to join us as we speak up and speak out for policies that will improve education, income and health; expand opportunities for our neighbors; and drive systemic change.

Here are a few ways to get ready for the session so you can ensure your voice is heard:

  • Sign up for our Advocacy Alerts. We’ll let you know the best times during the 2023 session to contact your representatives about key issues around education, income and health.
  • Know who represents you. Texas has new political maps for the state’s congressional, House, Senate and Board of Education districts. Click here to find your new districts and representatives.
  • Learn more about our approach to advocacy in our blog article, How and Why We Advocate for the North Texas Community.
  • Take a deeper dive into some of the key issues in this session. View our All Eyes on Austin event series, which explored important topics in education, income and health.
  • Save the date to join us for United Way Day at the Capitol on March 1, 2023

¿Necesitas Seguro Médico?

¿Necesitas Seguro Médico?

Con el apoyo de nuestros Guías de Salud certificados, es fácil encontrar el seguro médico correcto para ti y tu familia. Regístrate hoy. Y un Guía te ayudará a:

  • Comparar planes de salud
  • Entender tus opciones de beneficios
  • Elegir el mejor pan de salud, calificado para tus necesidades
  • Aplicar a subsidios para bajar tus cuotas mensuales del seguro

Inscríbete desde el 1 de Noviembre hasta el 15 de Diciembre para que tu y tu familia estén cubiertos a partir del 1 de Enero del 2023.

¡Llama ya para inscribirte gratis! Cubrimos 16 Condados en el Norte de Texas:
214-978-0042 | 214-978-0043

Enviando esta solicitud, autorizas a un Guía de Salud a contactarte para discutir tus opciones de seguro médico, y si es necesario, recibirás asistencia GRATIS para tu aplicación.

Sobre El North Texas Consortium

Somos un grupo local de organizaciones comunitarias dedicadas a aumentar el cubrimiento de seguro médico en North Texas. Liderado por United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, el Consorcio mantiene una red de Guías de Salud que asisten a los miembros de nuestra comunidad a registrarlos para cubrimiento de seguro médico.


Área de Cobertura

Condados de Collin, Cooke, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Fannin, Grayson, Henderson, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Navarro, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant y Wise.

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Para más información, visita

El proyecto descrito fue apoyado por el Número de Oportunidad de Financiamiento CA-NAV-21-001 de los Centros de Servicios de Medicare y Medicaid (CMS). Los contenidos proporcionados son responsabilidad exclusiva de los autores y no representan necesariamente los puntos de vista oficiales de HHS o cualquiera de sus agencias. 10/21


Bridging the Digital Divide

During the height of COVID, students across North Texas were expected to quickly pivot to remote learning. However, many families don’t have the technology necessary to support online learning. This “digital divide” can hold students back, even during a typical school year.

Through a program called Digital Connections, which is powered by AT&T, we distribute laptops and hot spots to students and young adults across Southern Dallas to enable them to access education, further their learning and stay connected in the classroom and beyond. Through our partnership with Compudopt, the laptops come with two years of warranty and bilingual technical assistance to ensure families can make the most of the technology.

Watch the video to learn more about the impact of Digital Connections.

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