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Press Release

United Way is Fighting for Youth Success in Innovative Ways

Forging unlikely partnerships in the fight for youth success in every community

Alexandria, VA (May 23, 2017) – As part of its effort to fight for the success of youth in every community, United Way works with a wide diversity of partners - from NFL to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to thousands of local companies and community organizations - on innovative approaches to help young people succeed in school, work and life. United Way believes that: to build a competitive economy, the next generation needs to be equipped for the jobs of tomorrow. We work to ensure that youth have the education, skills, and experience to find a job that will support themselves and their families.

As the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit, United Way has nearly 130 years of experience working to advance strategies that improve the foundation of success. But we don’t do it alone; partnerships are essential in tackling the world’s biggest problems. Examples of the powerful partnerships that are underway to help youth become successful include:

Character Playbook, an award-winning "Education, K-12 Course," is an example of the innovative approaches United Way and its partners are taking to support youth success. In response to the bullying reported by 62% of America’s teaching professionals, and an increase in unhealthy behaviors that are surfacing in middle schools, Character PlaybookTM was developed as a digital learning initiative sponsored by the National Football League (NFL) and United Way. Since its launch one year ago, more than 56,000 students in more than 560 schools have completed nearly 208,000 Character Playbook modules. 

Character Playbook uses evidence-based strategies to educate students on how to maintain healthy relationships during their critical middle school years. The graphic novel style of the course engages students in interactive educational activities that challenge them to better understand their own values and relationships with others, and get on a path towards an emotionally healthy future. The program is so unique and timely, that it was recently recognized with a GOLD Stevie Award in the "New Product of the Year, Education, K-12 Course or Learning Management Solution" Category by the American Business Awards. http://www.characterplaybook.com/

“Good character is a critical building block of strong individuals and strong communities,” said Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide.  “By helping young people develop and recognize healthy relationships and stand up to bullying, Character Playbook is providing our next generation with the tools to succeed – and it becomes another great example of how the NFL and United Way are combining the love of team with a deep commitment to community to make a difference.”

United Way is involved in other initiatives to promote youth success, such as:

* County Health Rankings & Roadmaps Framework:  Through a partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, United Way works to change the way communities see health and wellness.  The County Health Rankings & Roadmap Framework produced by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute creates annual rankings of every county in every state – these rankings can then start local conversations about what makes each community healthy and how new partnerships can create stronger communities where youth can succeed.  United Ways across America use the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps tools to help improve education and economic prospects, and to support healthy behavior among young people.

For example, United Way of Central Ohio’s comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty, which is informed by the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, is inclusive of “home”—place based strategies that support safe neighborhoods and decent housing. Programs that create meaningful activities for youth are a critical component of “home.” By working with partners such as The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, United Way of Central Ohio has leveraged their resources to build and renovate affordable housing and create healthier neighborhoods for people to live, work, play, and succeed. Learn more about the health of our communities at: http://www.countyhealthrankings.org/

Additionally, hundreds of local United Ways are working every day with educators, parents, policymakers and other partners to improve education in their communities. This work ranges from helping at-risk middle schoolers gain access to after-school enrichment programs, to connecting struggling students with the supports they need to succeed, to helping first generation college students obtain post-secondary degrees.  Below are some community-based examples:

  • High school graduation: About 75% of the 1,800 United Ways in our network are focused on education.  From Dubuque to Detroit to Dubai, United Way and its partners, educators, parents, policymakers and diverse community leaders work together to shift the odds for struggling youth in middle school, high school, or in college. Whether it’s offering tutoring, mentoring, job apprenticeships, or other real-time supports, United Way is focused on improving high school graduation rates.  Since United Way made this a priority in 2008, we’ve been part of the effort that’s helped raise graduation rates to an all-time high.

    Detroit is a great example. Part of this city’s turnaround is happening in the schools, as the community comes together to help its youth meet the demands of an evolving work force. Hamtramck High School in Detroit has the highest percentage of children living in poverty in any school district in the state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  But because Hamtramck High is part of United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s High School Turnaround Initiative, it has seen four-year graduation rates rise from 65 percent in 2011 to 86 percent in 2015. And, nearly as important, school officials say the culture has improved. Students value their school’s diversity and the advantage it will give them in life. https://unitedwaysem.org/celebrating-college-success/
  • After-school support: In Asheville, North Carolina, the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County and its partners have rolled out a new tool that supports students, their families and their neighboring communities. This tool is called “Homework Diners” and the model has had significant success in Albuquerque, New Mexico where the idea was born. “Homework Diners” are weekly family engagement events that allow students and families to receive homework support from paid teachers and volunteer tutors and a free meal for the whole family. They currently take place at three area middle schools: Asheville, Enka, and Erwin.

    Homework Diners are open to any family with a K-12 student in the surrounding school district. Attendees also have a chance to learn about community resources and take advantage of a variety of educational programs at these events. Says one parent from Enka Middle School who attended the first Homework Diner: “This is the first time I have felt real hope for my child at school. I was able to meet with his teachers and it wasn’t some huge deal. We just spoke and I feel like I was actually heard. This diner is a good thing.” http://www.unitedwayabc.org/homework-diners
  • Youth Job Skills: In San Francisco, United Way of the Bay Area’s Youth Jobs+ is a city-wide effort to help low-income and disconnected youth (ages 16-24) develop the skills necessary for work, and then connect them to jobs and internships in the public and private sector. The initiative began in 2012 as a partnership between United Way, the Office of the Mayor and the City of San Francisco. Today, United Way works with more than 100 employers and more than 50 youth-serving community partners to connect youth to employment opportunities. Since the program began in 2012, Youth Jobs+ has connected more than 34,000 young people with jobs. http://sfyouthjobs.org/
  • College success:  In Orlando, FL, Heart of Florida’s Going2College effort uses a text to mobile campaign to send high school students reminders about key dates (e.g. Free Application for Federal Student Aid, SAT/ACT tests, college application information); and their Destination Graduation Initiative utilizes 2-1-1 to connect college students with needed supports (transportation, cash assistance, childcare referrals) in order to remove barriers to completion. Going2College is proud of the 89% of text subscribers that graduate from high school on time, and the 81% of subscribers that are enrolled to attend a college, university or tech program within 12 months. Strong results also are evident for Destination Graduation: 95% of college students participating in the program remained in school during their current term and 88% re-enrolled the next school term  http://www.going2college.org/index.cfm


About United Way Worldwide
United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.8 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide, and more than $4.7 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 sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our communities. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith-based organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit UnitedWay.org. Read our Annual Report. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

Media Contact

Southerlyn Worsham
United Way Worldwide
703-836-7100 ext 321