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.
BCCADSV Teen Share
Provides housing to youth between the ages of 16 and 20 who meet the definition of homeless. Teenshare participants must be enrolled in school AND working in order to stay at the facility.
Beginnings Care For Life
Teach Parenting and Life Skills information to become the best parent you can possibly be in the Earning & Learning Program. Women and men are encouraged to participate, individually or together. Their Fatherhood Involvement Program offers mentoring to Dads and Dads-to-be, by trained male volunteers.
Branch ISD Family Success Program
Provides home visitors to at risk families in Branch County to ensure children are ready for kindergarten. Provides parenting guidance through the Parents as Teachers Curriculum as well as providing linkages to necessary resources such as Early ON and Head Start.
Bronson Area Youth Program
Provides after school and summer programming for Bronson students. Homework help and tutoring available in the after school program, summer programming also provides a nutritious lunch.
Similar to Family Success, CU serves families of children birth to 5 in the Union City School District. Targeting at-risk families, PAT Coaches work with families to ensure the success of the children.
Dolly Parton Imagination Library
Promotes early childhood literacy by providing monthly books to children at home to encourage reading. Currently 1,294 children are served by this program in Branch County. Parent surveys show 100% of parents read more to their children because these books are in the home.
Girls on the Run
Girls on the Run is a North American non-profit program that works to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games, culminating in a celebratory 5K race. Programs now active in most Branch County school districts.
Kimball Camp YMCA
Provides scholarships to allow Branch County students to participate in a positive, healthy summer camp experience.
Schools of Hope
Many elementary school children are struggling to read at grade level. This reading program provides reading literacy help by partnering local volunteers with students needing a little extra help during the school year.
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.