Unlimited Potential

Texas has a long history of racial segregation and discrimination against marginalized students. In the 1930s and 1940s, Texas had separate schools for African American and Mexican American students. These schools tended to be underfunded and in worse physical condition than the schools for white students. Even though the 1954 Supreme Court ruling Brown v. Board of Education eventually banned segregation in educational facilities, the effects of segregation and institutional disparities were long-lasting.

Changing educational practices 

During the 1950s and 1960s, school districts adopted new education styles as federal funding for education increased. Democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson prioritized the improvement of American education standards during their administrations. Nationally, there was an increasing focus on students’ emotional and mental development, leading to changes in curriculum and teaching methods. Rather than lessons that emphasized rote memorization of facts, educators sought to foster curiosity and to give students the tools they needed to engage deeply with a range of academic subjects. In addition, the very nature of American schools was changing as the civil rights movement worked to chip away at segregation and racial inequality, which included the underfunding and poor conditions in many schools. 

Jearnine Wagner and other innovative educators sought to remedy educational inequities. In the 1960s, Wagner set out to help underserved students gain a better education and to educate teachers on how to connect with students. 

Wagner, along with Sherry Kafka Wagner (no relation), did so by creating a program called Unlimited Potential. The program aimed to guide children into understanding their own individuality and develop ways they could become lifelong learners. 

Kafka Wager submitted grant proposals and the project was awarded funding through the Brackenridge Foundation and the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health.  Additional funding came from the Department of Education.

Prior to funding Unlimited Potential carried out short sessions in the Kenwood community near Trinity's campus in 1966. With funding the team was able to bring Phase I of the program to 15 elementary schools within the San Antonio Independent School District the following year. By 1968 Phase II initiated with Unlimited Potential exercises and workshops taking a local to international stage with the Project Y youth pavilion in San Antonio's Hemisfair.

Unlimited Potential