United Way Works to end America’s education crisis
Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. But with more than half of Branch County students receiving free and reduced lunch, it is clear that the success of our future is up to us all. Reviewing data in our community shows that getting kids through high school needs to start much earlier- with getting them ready to learn BEFORE they reach school age, and supporting them throughout their educational career. The cost? Statistics show that kids who are behind in reading at 3rd grade will likely never catch up and are 80% more likely to drop out. These trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.
At the Branch County United Way, we feel so strongly that the success of our students is the key to the success of our community that it is our goal to make sure children arrive at school with the tools they need to succeed. We are also committed to supporting students throughout their educational career.
We can’t focus on high school alone. High school dropouts are 12 years in the making, usually starting early childhood education behind schedule. United Way's model focuses on supportive communities, effective schools and strong families — strategies and approaches rooted in research. Tackling the education challenge requires reframing education on a birth to 21 continuum.
Some United Way initiatives taking aim at school readiness? Read on to see the great work that has begun!
Dolly Parton Imagination Library
In 2010 the Branch County United Way launched the DPIL in Branch County. Imagination Library encourages literacy by providing children with books mailed to them at home, in their name, monthly from birth until their 5th birthday. According to a Hawaii study, 98% of families increased reading frequencies as a result of participation in DPIL.
United We Read
In 2013, we launched United We Read- the first ever campaign of its kind in Branch County. We challenged local businesses, parents, grandparents and friends to fill every pre-school through 5th grade classroom with volunteer readers- all in one day in March. 173 readers in 17 locations later, we accomplished our goal. This event was so much fun we plan to make it an annual event!
Growing out of a need presented to the Chamber Business and Education Partnership, the United Way recently brought together a group of experts from local financial institutions to begin talking about what it would look like if we partnered banks and schools to teach kids financial literacy from K-12. This work is just beginning but we are very excited about this mentoring opportunity.
How You Can Help
To reach our goal, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect communities to their schools: parent involvement; literacy volunteers in the classroom; mentors for disadvantaged students; business leaders engaged in early childhood advocacy. Volunteer to help.