We ensure that children get a strong start in life by helping them achieve crucial developmental milestones and start school ready to succeed.
Ensuring Children Get a Good Start
When is the best time to equip a child for success in kindergarten? The first five years of life. Research shows a child’s early years matter the most when it comes to “hard-wiring” his or her brain for success in school, work and life. United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley is working to give kids that strong start with Success By 6, a Pre-K readiness program. The four-week program is offered in 18 school districts at 24 different sites across the Mahoning Valley, and has helped more than 3,000 students. How successful is it? Last year, Success By 6 students achieved a 14-point increase in their literacy scores.
United Way also launched Success After 6 last year to offer resources and assistance to more than 600 low-income students and their families. After school and throughout the summer, kids are experiencing enrichment programs and tutoring. This year, 53 students received new eyeglasses, 1,900 meals were served at the after-school program and 64 percent of students who received report card mentorship improved their grades. Brenda Scott, who leads Success After 6, sees great value in the program.
“This is impact work that builds character, boosts education and connects the right people and resources to help families who need it the most,” said Brenda.
Bridging the Education Gap in India
For tribal children in rural India, the hope of receiving a quality education is dim. Facilities are limited or too far away, transportation is often non-existent and resources are hard to come by. And those who do have access to school often drop out to become laborers, never reaching their full potential. Fighting for the education of every child, United Way Chennai partnered with Child Voice—an NGO that caters to the tribal children near Kodaikanal—to open a bridge school in Perungudi.
Committed to granting students in need access to education, United Way helped Child Voice build the school, which was modeled after other facilities in the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan school system. Capable of housing nearly 50 children, the elementary school offers students the promise of a better future. For the first time, they are learning on a regular basis. The children are understanding new languages, adopting hygiene best practices and discovering healthy eating habits. What’s more, a nutritional program was introduced, mid-day meals are given out and the children are learning how to set up a kitchen garden. Considering it takes three to four hours to visit the nearest town, having access to vegetables is a big step forward in the nutritional development of the students.
Thanks to this new school, 28 children are now getting the education they deserve. They’re also better nourished, have a positive attitude toward learning and are exercising proper hygiene. Together, United Way and Child Voice are empowering the tribal children to learn and grow, enabling them to live happy, healthy and successful lives.
A Back-to-School Backpack Bonanza
Imagine starting your first day of second grade surrounded by Star Wars stormtroopers, Disney princesses and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—favorite playmates that help make school fun. That was the experience of more than 100 students at P.S. 156 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, one of the poorest communities in the city. United Way of New York City and FedEx made it possible through United Way’s ReadNYC program.
ReadNYC is fighting to improve education outcomes for kids and financial stability for parents in New York City’s most challenged communities. In Brownsville, where the median household income is approximately $28,000, 87 percent of third-graders are not reading at grade level. Research tells us that third-grade reading levels are a predictor of future success. Children who miss this milestone are 74 percent more likely to drop out of high school. As adults, they’re also more likely to find themselves struggling to make ends meet, stuck in a cycle of poverty.
Did you know? Across the network, 735 local United Ways conducted school-readiness initiatives and 540 supported early grade reading this year.
That’s why United Way and companies like FedEx are fighting for literacy—fighting to provide children, families, schools and communities with key resources for success. As part of United Way’s annual Back-to-School Drive in September, the hero-decorated backpacks FedEx delivered not only equipped kids with the tools they needed to charge back to school ready to learn, but also saved their families $40-50. In all, United Way and FedEx delivered more than 1,800 donated backpacks to schools across the city, an impactful step toward building stronger communities together.
Nurturing the Joy of Reading
A quality education begins with reading. But in Florida, nearly one third of third-graders attending public school can’t read at minimally proficient levels. Through ReadingPals, an early literacy initiative spanning 15 local United Ways across Florida, United Way is helping children discover the joy of reading. This year, 2,419 volunteers mentored children (Pre-K to third grade) in 214 locations, contributing more than 44,000 hours of instruction. The result: 3,166 struggling readers had a mentor for a full year, resulting in improved school-readiness scores, reading grades and promotion rates.