Welcome to
Dove Springs

This is a story about two families overcoming challenges: floods, poverty, immigration, and health. It takes place in a neighborhood that is filled with pride—and problems. You will also find stories of people trying to make a difference in their own way.


Trying to Clean Up and Communicate in Dove Springs

Two-thirds of residents in Dove Springs don’t speak English as a first language, which means information as simple as trash collection can get lost in translation. On many major roads in Dove Springs, the curbs are littered with garbage: old mattresses, TVs, dishwashers and cardboard. The abandoned trash also creates a neighborhood filled with blight. Full story.

Finding a Love for the Violin

Isay Medrano is the most talented violinist in the Mendez Middle School Orchestra.

He practices at home for hours every day. In school, he and his classmates are preparing for the University Interscholastic League orchestra competition.

Nearly 95% of students at Mendez qualify for free or reduced lunch and most orchestra students can’t afford private lessons or their own instruments. Instead, they rely on their orchestra conductor, Jeffrey Hall.

Struggling to Attend School

At Mendez Middle School, a rainy day can cause the school to see a drop in attendance. But Isay misses school because of other issues: his mother and brother have  various health issues, a lack of transportation and an unemployed parent. Isay’s mom, Estela, has lost her job multiple times. Even when he’s absent, he finds time to practice and teaches himself new music.

Practice Pays Off

One incentive for Isay to attend school is the University Interscholastic League. Teacher Jeffrey Hall has a strict attendance policy for after-school practice. The competition includes a performance by the students and a sight reading portion. This year, the students carry home a trophy for the third year in a row, but they are hard on themselves–and their teacher–for not getting a perfect score.

Moving Forward, But Remembering the Past

Next year, Isay heads to McCallum High School, the arts magnet school in Austin. He’s excited to play with new musicians, but worries he won’t be as talented as the others. His mother is proud, but she worries once he leaves the neighborhood he’ll become ashamed of where he grew up. Isay’s teacher, Jeffrey Hall, says one thing is clear: Isay won’t be able to miss as many school days and still keep up with the rigorous music program at McCallum.

This Librarian Tells Students to Demand an Education

Ivan Cervantes has been the librarian at Mendez Middle School for a decade. His library has become a safe haven for students in the morning where they can read, use the computer or play chess. Cervantes tells students to demand an education and believes books are a way to teach students about the world beyond Dove Springs and help them deal with issues at home and school. Full Story.

Working, Studying and Raising a Child at 18

In Dove Springs, one in five children are born to teen mothers, some as early as middle school. It’s the area with the highest rate of repeat teen pregnancies in the country. 18-year-old Dove Springs resident Damaris Covarrubias is raising a two-year-old and working full time. She was trying to go to school as well, but had to take time off which is common for many teen parents. Full story.

Waking Up to Water

Dove Springs residents who live along Onion Creek went to bed the night of October 30, 2013, unaware most of them would wake up to inches of water in their homes. That morning, more than 600 homes in Onion Creek were underwater. Many people, including the Huerta family, sought shelter on their roofs, waiting hours until emergency responders could rescue them by boat. Five people died in the floods.

Picking Up the Pieces

For many people in Dove Springs, the Halloween floods only reinforced the feeling that their neighborhood is ignored by the City of Austin. Immediately after the waters receded many non-English speaking residents did not know where to turn for help. It took city authorities almost a week after the flood to organize the first community meeting. Meanwhile, newly-formed community groups began collecting food, water and supplies for those who lost everything.  They created a new group called the Travis Austin Recovery Group(TARG) to connect people with services and provide information to those picking up the pieces.

Months After Flood, Mold and Decay

 Month after the floods, hundreds of dead animals – from chickens, to dogs, to horses – still littered the affected area.  Some of those dead animals were in the green belt, right behind the Huerta’s home. The stench was unbearable. Hundreds of homes remained vacant and began to grow mold, affecting the health of those who stayed behind to rebuild, including the Huerta children.

Rebuilding and Moving On

Since the Huerta family owns their home, they have moved back and rebuilt. But many families left Dove Springs never to return, especially renters. Others are trying to decide if they should rebuild too, or leave. Many are waiting to learn if the City of Austin and Travis County will buy their homes in the floodplain. If the home are bought out, the city could build parkland in place of homes.

Meanwhile, mental health continues to be an issue. Some residents are dealing with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the few health services in the neighborhood are at capacity.

This Boxer Teaches Discipline

Casey Ramos grew up in Dove Springs and was raised to love boxing. He eventually became a professional boxer, but he spent some time at Mendez Middle School teaching students how to box–and keep them off the streets–through an after school program. When Ramos left to go back to college and pursue his professional boxing career, his brother took over as head coach. They say boxing teaches discipline and focus which many students in the neighborhood need, while also providing positive male role models. Full Story Part 1. Full Story Part 2.

What Does the Future Hold for Dove Springs?

We asked people who live and work in the neighborhood what they see ahead for Dove Springs and what the neighborhood needs to come back from years of neglect.

Listen to the full program here:


Joy Diaz
Kate McGee
Matt Largey
Ashley Siebels
Wells Dunbar


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon
Ilana Panich-Linsman
Sam Ortega
Filipa Rodrigues
Jon Shapley
Bryan Winter