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Press Release

Supporting Middle School Students to Boost Graduation Rates

Alexandria, VA – A new report published today by United Way Worldwide demonstrates the critical role community-based organizations can play in strengthening students in the middle grades in order to improve high school graduation rates

United Way Worldwide’s Middle Grades Success and Transition Challenge competitively awarded $50,000 matching grants and technical assistance to local United Ways, as part of the Ready by 21 partnership.  During the challenge, United Ways organized mentoring and after school programs for struggling students, engaged parents and families on the importance of graduation and developed diverse coalitions to increase awareness of the importance of the middle grades to better align efforts to boost graduation rates. The report profiles the work of nine participating United Ways and their partners.  

As a result of the Middle Grades Challenge:

  • Students in 33 middle and high schools directly benefitted from supports 
  • 73 partners across the nine participating communities engaged in helping middle school students succeed
  • United Ways, local school districts and community partners inked four agreements to share pertinent student data

“Providing mentoring, afterschool programs, tutoring, and college and career exploration can keep middle grades students engaged during a critical developmental period, and lay the foundation for success in high school and beyond,” said Stacey D. Stewart, U.S. President of United Way Worldwide. “Community-based organizations can help drive middle school success by partnering with schools to help the students who need them most.”

The United Way of Allegheny County, for example, leveraged the Challenge to deepen its existing partnership with Pittsburgh Public Schools, youth providers and faith-based organizations through the Be a Middle School Mentor program, which pairs students with volunteer mentors from local companies. The program’s success in its first year allowed it to expand to seven additional schools in the following four school years.

Be a Middle School Mentor program targets academic and socio-emotional supports for students who are struggling with both their school work and behavioral challenges,” said Damon Bethea, Mentoring Project Director at United Way of Allegheny County.

Efforts like the one in Pittsburgh are successful because they recognize the need for collaboration among school districts, community-based organizations and volunteers. “These pilot programs show how United Way plays the unique role of community catalyst,” said Ayeola Fortune, Director of Youth Success in Education for United Way Worldwide. “By bringing essential partners to the table, United Ways are helping drive initiatives that fully leverage community-based resources to achieve shared goals.”

Maximizing the Middle: Reflections on United Way’s Middle Grades Success and Transition Challenge is available at http://bit.ly/1hBHmuI.



About United Way Worldwide
With 2.6 million volunteers and 9.6 million donors worldwide, and more than $5 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create community solutions that improve life for everyone. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit UnitedWay.org. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited

About Ready by 21

The Ready by 21 National Partnership is an initiative aimed at helping state and local leaders change the odds for youth by changing the way they do business. With an ultimate goal of ensuring that all young people have the supports and opportunities they need to be Ready by 21 – ready for college, work and life, Ready by 21 provides clear standards to achieve collective impact, tools and solutions to help leaders make progress, and ways to measure and track success along the way. Learn more about Ready by 21 at www.readyby21.org.