AP NEWS

AT&T donates $1 million to Houston nonprofits

April 10, 2019

Neshak Chantal Musinbabigwi is set to graduate from Eisenhower High School this year. She has 16 college offers to choose from.

And Tuesday, the 18-year-old got to quiz Mayor Sylvester Turner in front of an audience.

Her first question: “What did you struggle with most in high school?”

Musinbabigwi is a fellow at OneGoal, a nonprofit that partners with 24 schools to help Houston students achieve a post-secondary education. On Tuesday, OneGoal received $325,000 from AT&T, the largest contribution of the company’s $1 million in donations to seven Houston nonprofits.

AT&T announced the initiative, called “Believe Houston,” at a Tuesday news conference at the nonprofit BakerRipley, which will receive $15,000. Other nonprofits that will receive funds are the Greater Houston Community Foundation, $300,000; Genesys Works, $165,000; the Travis Manion Foundation, $119,000; Black Girls Code, $60,000; and the Oasis Institute, $30,000.

“There are a lot of underserved communities throughout the city of Houston,” Turner said. “I want to be able to say to people regardless of the way you live, regardless of what neighborhood you grew up in, every neighborhood is a neighborhood of opportunity and a neighborhood of promise. You don’t have to live in River Oaks in order to succeed.”

The program dovetails with Complete Communities, Turner’s signature neighborhood initiative. Complete Communities launched in April 2017 with a goal of revitalizing areas through public-private partnerships. It has five pilot neighborhoods: Gulfton, Near Northside, Second Ward, Third Ward and Acres Homes.

Nearly two years after the program’s launch, Turner recently announced the appointment of Shannon Buggs to direct the program and a Complete Communities Improvement Fund with $10 million in the bank out of a $25 million goal. The mayor is expected to announce four additional Complete Communities within the coming weeks.

In response to Musinbabigwi’s question, Turner remembered how his teachers would ask what kids did over summer break. The Turner family could not afford to go anywhere, he said. So once, he made up a vacation based on a book.

“I said, ’Hell, I can’t tell you nothing — I didn’t go there, lady, I just read about it,” Turner said, laughing.

Corey Anthony, AT&T’s chief diversity officer, said AT&T began conversations with the city about its work in other cities and wound up launching Believe Houston.

“If you look at the work the city is already doing — especially Mayor Turner and his office around Houston’s Complete Communities, there are opportunities for us to partner there,” he said.

AT&T has other “Believe” programs in Chicago, New York and Dallas. In Dallas, the initiative centers around homelessness; in New York, the company uses it stores to educate families about protecting children online; in Chicago, AT&T focuses on reducing gun violence.

sarah.smith@chron.com