United Way works to end America’s education crisis
Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. But with more than 1.2 million children dropping out each year, America faces an education crisis. The cost? More than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.1These trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.
In 2008, United Way launched a 10-year initiative to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school by 2018. It’s an ambitious goal, but by utilizing our core strengths — a national network, committed partners and public engagement capacity — we can achieve it.
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.
Our Focus Areas
- Enter school ready to succeed
- Read proficiently by 4th grade
- Make a successful transition to middle school
- Graduate from high school on time
- Be ready for success in college, work, and life
Education Research Overview
The Education Research Overview (PDF) gives communities and United Way partners a more detailed picture of the research grounding United Way’s cradle-to-career education continuum. It’s organized around United Way’s five education focus areas, dedicating one section to each. Each section frames the case for action (rooted in the latest research), offers strategies that experts suggest work, and gives examples of promising practices underway and innovative ideas from United Ways.
The following represent the EDUCATION activities UWMC is currently involved in:
Merced College Child Development Center program is for children 0-5 attending the MCCDC to be healthy and ready to learn by providing early detection and intervention programs identify health and developmental obstacles to children’s optimal learning. The service population this program will target is up to 150 children 0-5 attending the MCCDC. Approximately 82% of the children are from families that are at or below poverty level and qualify for TANF or CalWorks, 6% are low income and 12%is median income. The proposed program will ensure stable, uninterrupted services, by helping families establish relationships with existing community agencies through the use of our screening program which determines the individual needs of children and families.
Merced Symphony Association is the primary organization that provides sustainable infrastructure for classical music in Merced County. We receive positive feedback year after year from teachers, students, and parents. Our annual January Children’s Concerts play to large audiences. In 2014 we served over 2,300 students: 1, 600 at the Merced Theatre (2 concerts) and 700 students in Los Banos (2 concerts). Our teaching packets enable teachers to instruct students prior to the concerts and thus enrich their understanding of the music they hear. Many adults and students expressed gratitude for the concert as they left venues.
UC Merced Police Mentor Progam recruit UC students to mentor and tutor 4th grade students so they can achieve their goals. Mentors serve as a positive role model for at-risk children in Merced. Our program offers acceptance and opportunities the youth may not otherwise have access to. We invest out time and attention in our area youth so we have a greater chance of helping these children change the outcome of their futures by providing a positive alternative to a street gang lifestyle. We open doors to higher education they do not know exist, challenging minds and changing lives, one student at a time.
In collaboration with the Merced community, Merced city schools, and the University community, the UC Merced Police Mentor Program works to address three key areas/concerns in elementary school age youth from socio-economically challenged backgrounds:
1. Educational inspirations/opportunity awareness
2. Social development and self-belief
3. Community ownership/responsibility
Afterschool Character Development through the Boy Scouts of America, Scouting provides positive adult role models that embody strong moral values and a commitment to serve others through teamwork and self-confidence. By adding the Afterschool Character Development program to the ASSETS afterschool program we will be able to reach out to youth who may not be familiar with scouting.
Saving and Spending Within Means ($WIM), which is geared toward educating our Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community about how to make wise financial choices. Living within their means, developing a budget, learning how to cut costs appropriately, and how to prioritize expenses are all key aspects of this program. We expect that our community will improve their skills and start taking steps toward financial stability in their lives. $WIM’s format will consist of monthly activity-oriented workshops following a curriculum we will develop.
We are adding one-on-one meetings into the program, to make it more effective. The $WIM facilitator will meet with each attendee at least once during the program year to provide individual guidance. This was added to ensure that no one gets lost within the group setting, but instead will have direct services to supplement what is taught during workshops.
THE $WIM facilitator will also meet with each attendee early on in the year and then again near the end of the year in order to evaluate progress toward financial stability. This was added as a way to evaluate the program’s effectiveness.
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.
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1Figure according to Communities in Schools, one of America’s leading drop-out prevention partnerships.