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United Way Blog

Celebrating the First Graduates of Young Men United: A United Way of Delaware Success Story


This summer, the first cohort of Young Men United (YMU) proudly graduated from the program, marking a significant milestone for the United Way of Delaware and the Christina School District. YMU is a dedicated initiative by United Way designed to unlock the potential of young men of color through targeted, cross-sector interventions. The Initiative supports local United Ways and young men of color in the United States to increase their post-secondary attainment and workforce preparedness. Its objectives are to bolster the school-to-work pipeline and for participants in this initiative to be engaged in their communities. It also engages partners and donors to support the work of United Way in closing critical gaps in education and the workforce and addressing other inequities. 

Among the graduating class were young men mentored through the United Way of Delaware and Christina School District partnership. This collaboration has given participating students the resources, guidance, and opportunities necessary to thrive. The program's approach is rooted in the belief that all young men, regardless of their background, have the potential to achieve great things when given the proper support and opportunities. 

One of the critical issues the YMU program addresses is the need for more exposure to diverse career opportunities. Many young men in the program initially expressed a strong interest in athletic careers, influenced by the limited career perspectives available to them. To broaden their horizons, YMU organized various activities and events introducing students to different non athletic-career paths.  

Ken Livingston, Senior Director of Student Success, shared his insights on the program's impact. "Most of the students in United Way of Delaware's Young Men United Program are in high school and interested in careers in sports. The event offered a perspective change. Seeing individuals like them doing well in non-athletic careers gives them other options for careers in sports. Already, one student is looking into a sports management program." 

Students received valuable exposure to new possibilities through college tours, entrepreneurial programs, and one-on-one mentoring. These experiences allowed them to envision futures beyond their previously-considered scope. Mentorship played a crucial role in this transformation, providing individual interactions with professionals who shared their journeys and success stories. This personalized guidance helped students understand the diverse career options and how to navigate their paths. 

The program also emphasized early literacy and career development, engaging high and middle-school students. Even as the program strives to direct participants to careers outside of sports, one notable event was the collaboration with the Delaware Blue Coats, where speakers shared their diverse career backgrounds and the choices that led them to success in non-athletic fields within the sports industry. This event was particularly impactful as it provided students with relatable role models and tangible examples of career diversity. Additionally, activities focused on building life skills, executive skills, and workforce readiness. Sessions covered essential topics such as understanding stress, discovering personal strengths, creating a resume, addressing mental health, and mastering interview skills. Students also participated in college trips and received assistance in finding scholarships, further expanding their educational and career prospects. 

One unique aspect of YMU's success is its partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. This collaboration brought additional mentoring support, helping children realize their potential and build their futures. As the nation’s largest donor- and volunteer-supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters facilitated meaningful, monitored matches between adult volunteers and young students. This year YMU of Delaware conducted group mentoring sessions as a component program. This partnership enriched the program, ensuring students received comprehensive support tailored to their needs. 

In February 2024, YMU began meeting with youth in the morning and after school, providing mentoring opportunities focused on social-emotional learning, life skills development, and workforce readiness. These sessions aimed to equip students with the tools to succeed academically and personally. Including a virtual tutoring service, accessible through the United Way of Delaware 2-1-1 press four resource hotline, further supported students' educational journeys. 

The success of the first YMU cohort highlights the importance of providing targeted support and opportunities to young men of color. By addressing systemic barriers and broadening career perspectives, United Way of Delaware and Christina School District have created a program that empowers students to achieve their full potential. 

As the program grows, the next step is to expand one-on-one mentoring opportunities. Ken Livingston encourages anyone interested in being a YMU mentor for the 2024-2025 academic year to get involved. "Anyone interested in being a YMU mentor should reach out to and be vetted by Big Brothers Big Sisters for free," he says, underscoring the importance of community involvement in sustaining and expanding the program's impact. If you aren't in Delaware and are interested in supporting United Way Worldwide's YMU mission, contact the  National Director, Shannon Reed, at

The graduation of the first YMU cohort is a testament to the power of targeted interventions and community support in transforming lives. Through continued efforts and partnerships, United Way of Delaware is committed to developing young men who can lead and inspire future generations.