Today I’m Joining American YouthWorks’ Board as the Organization Expands to Transform More Young Lives

Paul O'Brien
4 min readMar 4, 2024

As a teenager, I had the pleasure and privilege of following in the footsteps of my father who, at the time serving through United Way, got me involved in Youth United Way. That experience left an indelible impression on me that no doubt shaped the passion I have today to evolve education; appreciating how so many are left behind not only by circumstances but the fact that institutional programs fail to keep pace with innovation, directly serve the community in which they work, and meet the needs of future demand.

Throughout our time developing such evolutions, for entrepreneurs and media professionals in MediaTech Ventures, I’ve endlessly sought an organization through which I could do more to pay it forward. My time remains allocated as greatly as possible to mentoring startups in effective incubators, consulting cities as they develop startup ecosystems, and paying it forward to kids through time with school programs such as IncubatorEDU, today though, I’m thrilled to share news of a commitment to American Youthworks.

American Youthworks is excited to announce the appointment of Paul O’Brien, CEO of MediaTech Ventures, to its Board of Directors. This significant addition aligns with our strategic expansion plans, building on our rich history of transforming young lives through education, job training, and community service.

Founded in 1975 by Richard Halpin as a GED and literacy program for incarcerated youth in Austin, American YouthWorks has evolved significantly. Today, it houses two primary programs: YouthBuild, established in 1997, built upon the Conservation Corps, launched in 1993. These programs have been pivotal in empowering young people to complete their education and receive career training, all while serving the Greater community.

Parc Smith, our CEO since 2010 and a long-time member of the organization, has been instrumental in driving our mission forward. His passion for community service, environmental preservation, and creating educational and career opportunities for young people has been the cornerstone of our success.

Conservation Corps crew members conserve natural landscapes and recreation areas across the Central Southern United States. Our Disaster Response Teams are deployed to assist communities impacted by natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma. In our YouthBuild program, young people have the opportunity to complete their high school education while simultaneously serving the Greater Austin community being engaged in valuable vocational training in the growing Healthcare, Media, IT, and Construction industries.

The addition of Paul O’Brien to our board is a milestone. With his extensive background in media and technology and his innovative leadership in the startup ecosystem, he brings new perspectives and strategies to our organization. His involvement is expected to enhance our digital outreach and engagement, connecting more young people to the opportunities they need to succeed in their careers and life.

O’Brien’s commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship aligns with our goal of empowering the next generation to become agents of change in their communities. With this new chapter, American YouthWorks is set to not only continue its legacy of impact but to expand it, reaching more young people with our transformative programs. For more information about American YouthWorks and its programs, visit

Before my time with Youth United Way, I longed to be a park ranger; and, no doubt, would be in a forest now were it not for allergies fueled by Michigan summers steering my attention to work more suited to air-conditioned environments.

In particular, I’m thrilled to join long-time friend, someone who might exceed my passion for education and entrepreneurs, Ruben Cantu, who presently serves as Chair of the Board of American Youthworks. The Executive Director of the Office of Inclusive Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at Austin and I have shared a vision for well more than a decade that we must do better by society. Now, as we continue serving founders and startups, we can together make a difference on our environment and in helping others thrive through programs that ensure people have the skills valued, productive, and necessary in our workforce.

Join us. We have an incredibly busy few weeks ahead of us.

If you’re in Austin for SXSW, make sure you grab a time to meet with any of us. One such way to do so is at Funded House <- register to meet us there.

Headquartered in Austin, American Youthworks is part of Central Texas’ biggest giving event, Amplify Austin, taking place March 6th and 7th. We’ve just opened programming in Taylor, Texas, home to a dozen cranes developing Samsung’s semiconductor manufacturing facilities, so we can help get the community there ready for both the boom and the tech skills in demand. Make a contribution here to make a difference.



Paul O'Brien

CEO of MediaTech Ventures, CMO to #VC, #Startup Advisor. I get you funded. Father, marketer, author, #Austin. @seobrien & @AccelerateTexas.