Navigating the road of life can be challenging, especially when there are roadblocks along the way. Poverty has been a hurdle for many children and families in Greenville County. Imagine a community where nearly 60,000 people live at or below the Federal Poverty Level. It's a harsh reality that affects access to healthcare, education, and financial stability for children and their families.
A child born into a low-income family often faces an uphill battle right from the beginning. Poverty introduces chronic toxic stress into the lives of children, interrupting healthy brain development and leading to lifelong difficulties with learning, memory, and self-regulation. It's not just about the money. It's about exposure to violence, enduring chronic neglect, and struggling with the accumulated burdens of economic hardship.
Currently, 10 percent of adults in Greenville County over 25 do not have a high school diploma, and only 38 percent hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree. While poor health, environmental stress, and a lack of support can adversely affect educational outcomes for many children, we also know that the right support and education opportunities can change the direction of a child’s life forever.
United Way of Greenville County (UWGC) is committed to removing the barriers to education and ensuring all children in Greenville County have access to the opportunities to achieve their full potential. Recognized as the 2021 Partner of the Year by Greenville County Schools, United Way is championing a transformative movement in this community by fostering educational advancement. Their work isn't confined to mere volunteerism or monetary donations. They go the extra mile by becoming an integral part of the lives of the families they support. Greenville County Schools Superintendent Dr. Burke Royster says, "One of the greatest contributions United Way offers Greenville County Schools is the connectivity between our families and those who can provide services to meet their needs in terms of employment, homelessness, mental health, and other services."
In alignment with Greenville County Schools’ Graduation Plus, an initiative aimed to equip graduating students with a high school diploma as well as technical certification and/or college credit, UWGC provides stipends for under-resourced students who complete technical education training. UWGC also facilitates a partnership between the school district and Self Help Credit Union so that students become banked and receive financial literacy education while in the program.
Another example of UWGC's phenomenal work is the OnTrack Greenville initiative, launched in partnership with Greenville County Schools. This initiative focuses on guiding middle and high school students toward graduation and beyond, opening doors to future opportunities. During the daunting COVID-19 pandemic, UWGC bridged the gap by providing crucial resources like food and financial aid when the world felt disconnected. They partnered with GCS Food and Nutrition Services to offer meals for families and led the distribution of free Wi-Fi hotspots for students.
UWGC's endeavors resonate deeply with the broader mission of United Way Worldwide. By addressing the roots of poverty through education, they empower individuals to achieve their full potential. Meghan Barp, President and CEO of the United Way of Greenville County, echoes this sentiment, “At every single point in a child's life, it's important to have robust community supports so that they're successful.”
With a united purpose and shared commitment, let's continue illuminating the path for those who need it most. Let's stand united with Greenville County.