The Forsyth Promise Receives $456,500 Grant for Data-Sharing Project

The Forsyth Promise (The Promise) is pleased to announce that it has received a grant to support a student-centric community data sharing platform from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

 The award from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust (The Trust), in the amount of $456,500, will fund the continuation of a student-centric data sharing platform between The Promise and Winston-Salem / Forsyth County Schools. Forsyth Futures serves as the data and research management partner on the project. The Data Sharing Project, currently in year one of its pilot phase, integrates key information on student attendance and performance in school with key information about their participation in extracurricular enrichment programs. At scale, this program will allow school system administrators and community program planners to begin to understand the impact that their services are having on children in the classroom.

Wendy Poteat-Spicer, Partnership Director of The Forsyth Promise, explains, “In making a strategic investment in the data sharing project, we are investing in our ability to understand the best and most effective services and interventions to change the lives of students in need in a dramatically positive way. This insight allows us to focus on what’s working for Forsyth County’s kids and allows our funding dollars to go further.”

At the time of writing, the data sharing project is in year one of a pilot phase with schools and community agencies in Forsyth County and will move into an expansion phase in late Summer / early Fall. Funding from the Trust will be used to support technical operations, program coordination, and program evaluation support for participating schools and agencies.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina. Our mission is to improve the health and quality of life of financially-disadvantaged residents in North Carolina. The Heath Improvement in North Carolina program area supports community-wide health solutions across the state. The Local Impact in Forsyth County program area fosters equitable and sustainable solutions to improve the quality of life in Forsyth County. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. serves as a sole trustee.

 

The Forsyth Promise (The Promise) is an education-focused, cradle-to-career community partnership working to ensure that every child in Forsyth County has the chance to thrive in school, in work, and in life.  The Promise shines a light on what’s working well for kids, encourages focus on common goals and outcomes, and aligns our community’s resources and practices to ensure the best educational outcomes for Forsyth County’s children.

All Hands on Deck for Student Success

Now more than ever, youth are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles when it comes to accessing higher education or landing a job. College costs are increasing, making it difficult to benefit from postsecondary schooling, and still more students are lacking the necessary skills for quality, sustainable employment.

In California, Orange County United Way is making higher education a reality through Destination Graduation. The program aims to reduce high school dropout rates, while bridging the education achievement gap for middle and high school students in high-need districts. Based in 12 high schools and 10 middle schools, Destination Graduation has prepared more than 26,000 low-income students with the skills they need to compete in the global economy.

And in Boston, high school students are sharpening their business skills with the help of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Through Youth Venture, a civic engagement and entrepreneurship program, young people develop and implement their own business ideas to improve their communities.

From career expos and afterschool mentorships, to financial management and college readiness courses, United Ways are providing myriad opportunities for youth to learn and grow. And you can do your part to help! By reaching out to your local United Way, you can find out where your support is needed most. Explore the possibilities. You don’t need a background in education or social work to make a mark. All you need is a willingness to give back. Visit your local United Way’s website to learn how they’re assisting kids right in your own community. Often, there will be opportunities listed for volunteers interested in donating their time or services.

  1. Wear your mentorship hat. Sometimes, all students need is someone to listen and support them as they navigate through their educational journey. As a volunteer mentor, you can use your experiences to inspire them to maximize their potential and reach for the stars. Your local United Way can help by pairing you with local students seeking mentorship.

 

  1. Suggest a career day. Ask your company if they would be willing to host a career day. Not only will senior leadership get the chance to communicate the value of your industry to potential future employees, but local youth will get an important glimpse into what it’s like working in a full-time job, giving them context for the future.

Connect with your local United Way today to learn how you can support the youth in your community.

Yesterday’s Progress Should Inspire Today’s Work

There is a lot of troubling news in the world today. Terrorism, inequality and distrust are just a few that come to mind. But when you dig further, you also see encouraging signs.

I recently came across a blog from Ben Carlson on his site, A Wealth of Common Sense. Ben and I share a similar perspective, and his blog highlights many good examples that remind us how far we’ve come.

For example:

  • 200 years ago, 85% of the world population lived in extreme poverty. 20 years ago, it was 29%. Today, only 9% live in extreme poverty.
  • The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51.
  • The U.S. high school graduation rate was just 9% in 1910. It jumped to 52% by 1940 and 83% today.

If these figures blow your mind, I’m not surprised. These examples don’t fit into the narrative broadcast by those who believe the world is spiraling out of control.

Of course, there is a lot of truth to concerns about growing inequality, our readiness for the jobs of the future, and the increasing failures of government – particularly at the national level. As a result, optimism and trust are declining in many parts of the world.

Surveys today typically find that only a small fraction of Americans trust the federal government to do the right thing. Yet more than 70 percent trusted their local government as of a couple years ago.

These numbers make me optimistic, because they present an opportunity for a bottom-up, community-based approach to improve our society.

It’s an approach where people stop shouting past one another and instead listen and attend town council meetings to discuss improving schools and public safety.

It’s an approach where people connect and find common ground that leads to real, scalable impact.

And it’s an approach where our newfound trust and progress creates opportunities for change at higher levels of society, including the national level.

If that sounds a lot like United Way’s model, that’s because it is. We’ve been bringing people together in communities around the world for more than a century. Today’s environment, where trust in local organizations is greater than in national institutions, offers a critical moment to make an impact.

There is still a lot of work to do. The richest one percent of the world controls half its wealth. American millennials today are far less likely than previous generations to out-earn their parents. And our education systems continue to leave too many young people behind.

But it’s graduation season. A time to believe in what we can achieve, both individually and together. So let me end with these reminders:

Let’s continue to believe in the power of communities and the progress we’re making.

Let’s continue to understand the work left to do on behalf of people and communities.

And let’s remain optimistic that people can – and will continue to – come together to change the world.

When You Invest in Your Community, You Invest in Yourself

“Givers gain.”

That phrase was racing through my mind as I put on my “Live United” t-shirt, scanned the conference room and listened to the Rappahannock United Way staff explain the logistics of the sort-a-thon. I was surrounded by Fredericksburg, Virginia, residents, all of whom were eager to sort children’s books, divvy up school supplies and create “kits” to help kids prepare for the school year ahead.

Once a month, United Way Worldwide employees can spend a day volunteering. It’s an opportunity for us to extend our support beyond helping the network from afar—to join the “boots on the ground.” I chose to lace my boots and contribute to my local United Way’s school readiness efforts. Rappahannock United Way is doing great work in the education space. When I heard about their sort-a-thon, I decided to contribute. I expected to give my time, and what I got was far more valuable.

The conference room was a bibliophile’s dream. There must have been a hundred books on tabletops, with volunteers organizing each. Nick, a Marine from nearby Marine Corps Base Quantico, drove 30 minutes to participate, and he was enjoying every second of it.

“I heard about the event from a volunteer coordinator on base,” said Nick. “I’m big into reading, and I like to support anything that has to do with youth and literature.”

Once the books were sorted and labeled, they were handed over to a crew of kit creators. Bags were filled with miscellaneous school items—from markers to notebooks—and given one book each before being set aside. It was a well-oiled assembly line of goodwill. I manned the supplies line, doling out cardboard paper for future coloring. To my right, a woman was talking about inspiring her sons to volunteer. Another woman, Geetha, commented on early learning.

“The beginning part of a child’s education is the most important,” said Geetha, a former nutritionist for Head Start. “Each month they don’t get the right education, they’re set back two months.”

All in all, the sort-a-thon was a hit, with dozens of people coming together to create hundreds of kits and set underprivileged children up for success. Personally, I was given a valuable reminder: Anything is possible when you combine your heart with hard work. Volunteering doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t have to be arduous, and you don’t need to be an expert. You just need to act.

One decision, one hour, one moment—you’ll get back tenfold what you give.

Supporting Moms with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

According to the beautiful images on Instagram and Facebook, a plump new baby and a well-rested, smiling mother enjoying every minute of motherhood is the norm in the early days after giving birth.  But real life does not always play out like it does in curated posts and choreographed photos. Every new mother I know is familiar with the roller coaster that accompanies the first few weeks and months after welcoming a new baby. For many, the days just after giving birth are marked by restless nights in the hospital, an uncomfortable recovery from labor, the learning curve of how to care for a newborn – all while attempting to catch up on sleep.

For some mothers, that’s not where the stress and anxiety ends. Some new moms are grappling with their newborn’s health issues. Some mothers could be jobless, homeless or plagued with an addiction, while others deal with a partner who is deployed or not in the picture. Some new moms are teenagers and may have a minimal support system in place. With all of those factors in play, in addition to recalibrating post-pregnancy hormones, it is no wonder that many mothers feel overwhelmed.

The American Psychological Association says postpartum depression afflicts approximately one out of seven new mothers and can start anytime after giving birth, from a few weeks to a year. With almost four million births reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016, that means over half a million new mothers are suffering from postpartum depression or anxiety in the U.S. alone. Symptoms and severity range from mood swings, to difficulty sleeping, to feeling overwhelmed to the more serious thoughts of hopelessness or self-harm. A full list of symptoms can be found here. What all new mothers and those around her need to know is that help and support is available to them.

United Way believes that children deserve a strong start in life and that having a healthy mother or caregiver is the first step in that direction. If you or someone you know is a new parent (mother or father) and experiencing any symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, reach out for help. Talk to your partner, doctor, pediatrician, other moms, friends or relatives about what you’re going through. You can also call 2-1-1 for immediate assistance.

This Mother’s Day, let’s ensure every mother gets the support and care she needs to be the strongest advocate she can for her new child.

#ThankaTeacher

Most of us can rattle off the names of each of our teachers from grade school through high school. And there’s good reason – teachers make a lasting, positive impression on countless young minds every day.

For many communities, teachers are a student’s mentor, friend and cheerleader. They often provide their class with necessary supplies, extra snacks and friendly encouragement. Without a doubt, teachers are an important part of raising healthy and educated children.

Recent research shows the average teacher spends almost $500 a year on classroom supplies, from decorations to tissues and pencils. Almost 20 percent of teachers report having a second job outside of the classroom. And, for most teachers, the average starting salary is just $38,617. Given all the challenges that our nation’s teachers face every day when educating the next generation, we’ve rounded up a list of ways you can thank a teacher in your community during Teacher Appreciation Week:

  1. Consider funding a local classroom project on DonorsChoose.org. The organization connects teachers in high-need communities with donors who want to help. Projects can range from distributing basic art supplies to iPads for the classroom.
  2. Connect with your child’s school PTA group and offer to collect supplies or funds for their classroom, or even offer to clean or help decorate their classroom. Every teacher appreciates when parents or caretakers can pitch in a few hours.
  3. Offer to cater lunch for teachers at a local school on a Friday. They’ll appreciate the break, and it’s a great way to get involved as a local business.
  4. Send a handwritten note of appreciation to your child’s teacher. A simple note can help brighten a teacher’s day.
  5. Consider nominating your child’s teacher for a local, state or national award. Many educational organizations have award programs, including the National Teacher’s Hall of Fame and the National Teacher of the Year Award.

Press Release: United Way Forsyth County Recognizes Campaign Volunteers and Partner Agencies at Award Ceremony

WINSTON-SALEM, NC –  United Way Forsyth County Recognizes Campaign Volunteers and Partner Agencies  at Award Ceremony

On May 3, 2018, The United Way of Forsyth County hosted a thank you and award ceremony honoring partners, staff, volunteers and donors for their work during the 2017 campaign at the Center for Design Innovation.

Winners included:

Laura Harrell, Hall of Fame Award, Twin City Warehouse/Adele Knits- recognized for her thirty years of service as a campaign chair.

Wake Forest University, Personal Touch Award; Barbara Walker, the 2017 Campaign Chair, was also recognized for her hard work and organization of a successful campaign.

Campaign Chair of the Year Award: Dave Riser, Reynolds American Inc.; Riser was recognized for being instrumental in Reynolds American’s campaign which reached a goal of 2.2 million dollars.

Shining Star Award: Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC; Goodwill was recognized as a partner agency and true advocate for the United Way.

Advocates of the Year: Jennie Grant- Heaton, BB&T , Trisha Coleman, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center; as leaders of our Young Leaders United and Women’s Leadership Council affinity groups.

Leader of the Year: Tony Smits John Deere-Hitachi, recognized for the company’s 65% participation rate and 31% increase campaign dollars raised.

Spirit of the Community Award: Quality Oil-recognizing their leadership as keen advocates and supporters of the United Way.

Special Guest Speakers included Andrea Kurtz, Senior Director, Housing Strategies who updated the attendees on the progress of the ten-year plan to end chronic homelessness. In 2006, the city of Winston-Salem, and Forsyth County adopted the Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. United Way of Forsyth County was chosen for its expertise and capacity to leverage community resources, coordinate collaborative projects and improve the system for all people experiencing a housing crisis. Since 2006, Chronic Veteran Homelessness has been eradicated and the number of the chronic homeless has been reduced from over 200 in 2006 to 17 (as documented in the January, 2018 Point in Time Count). Kurtz noted, “We continue to work towards a day when individuals are referred to their talents and contributions and not their housing status.”

Denita Mitchell, Program Director and former Client of the YWCA Hawley House spoke about her own recovery from substance abuse and how she moved from being a client of the Hawley House program to a member of the leadership team.  “I am very thankful to the United Way for supporting a program that helped me make a difference in my life”.

United Way of Forsyth County President and CEO, Cindy Gordineer noted, “One thing every strong community needs is a strong United Way. We are very fortunate to have a large network of partners that work with us collaboratively to ensure our entire community has access to a good life, as well as  our community volunteers who advocate passionately for those most in need. Thank you joining us in celebrating what it means to Live United over the past 95 years”.

 

Pictured: l-r: Dave Riser, VP External Relations, Reynolds American, Cindy Gordineer, President and CEO, United Way Forsyth County,  Dr. John D. McConnell, CEO Emeritus , Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

United Way of Forsyth County brings the community and its resources together to solve problems that no one organization can address alone.

 

# # #

What Every Kid Needs to Do to be Healthier

Now that warmer temperatures are here, it is a great time to get outdoors with kids to enjoy the sunshine and help them get their daily dose of physical activity. With childhood obesity on the rise and kids spending more than seven hours a day in front of screens, it’s more important than ever that children make daily exercise part of their routine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that kids and teens get at least one hour of physical activity per day. Activities like jumping rope, running, climbing on monkey bars and gymnastics are fun ways that kids can fulfill their daily quota, while also strengthening their bones and muscles.

Craig Williams, director of the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre at the University of Exeter in England, tells CNN that exercise should include muscle-strengthening activities at least three days a week.

“One of the most important reasons that children should be active is for their bone health, as it is shown that in the adolescent years, 33% to 43% of total bone mass is acquired,” he says.

A few other ways you can make exercise fun for kids are:

  • Turn a walk around the neighborhood into a game, or incorporate short races from mailbox to mailbox, for example
  • Take them to the playground or a nearby park to run around with their friends
  • Sign them up for a team sport, like soccer or baseball

One cautionary note: Girls tend to let exercise slide once they reach adolescence, according to Dr. Stephanie Walsh, medical director of child wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She tells CNN that the goal is to encourage teen girls to get their daily exercise without introducing body images. Dr. Walsh’s tip for parents? Don’t ever associate it with weight or weight loss.

“Physical activity has so many other benefits that has nothing to do with weight,” Walsh says. “When you’re talking to kids about that activity, talk to them about the benefits, better sleep, better concentration, feeling better, being stronger, increased muscle mass, all those things that are really important about it, but don’t focus on weight.”

Bottom line: Children and adolescents need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, whether they fit it in all at once or do short bursts of activity throughout the day. The goal is for them to get their heartbeat up, and to instill in them healthy habits that they’ll carry into adulthood.

For more resources on healthy living, check out this blog about reducing stress and this post about how to encourage healthy habits in your children.

Press Release: United Way Helped More Than 2 Million Youth Prepare for College, Work & Life

Alexandria, Va. (May 2, 2018) – United Way Worldwide today announced it helped more than 2 million youth (ages 14 – 29) gain the knowledge, skills and credentials to succeed in school, work and life in 2016. That’s based on the 2017 Global Results Snapshot[1], a set of indicators that local United Ways report annually to demonstrate combined impact across communities. United Way invested in or led efforts to serve students in elementary through high school, ensuring that more students showed up for school, earned passing grades, developed soft skills, and received necessary training for success in school and ultimately the workplace to set them up for productive futures.

“The Global Results Snapshot demonstrates our progress against some of society’s toughest problems that prevent young people from gaining the skills and training they need to be relevant, get on a career track and secure successful futures,” said Mary Sellers, U.S. President of United Way Worldwide. “To make our communities strong, safe environments where everyone can thrive, we must continue to work together to ensure our youth emerge in the workforce ready to compete in the fast-changing world of work and primed for success.”

United Way achieved the following results:

  • 115,863 youth received job skills training
  • 98 percent of youth graduated on time
  • 80 percent of youth developed soft skills such as communication and time management
  • 86 percent maintained satisfactory or improved school attendance
  • 66 percent of youth gained post-secondary employment, further education or credentials

United Way also worked with volunteers, partner agencies and corporate partners to:

  • Advocate for 98 policies that promote youth success at the local or state level. In Seattle, WA, United Way helped enact the Homeless Youth Act, to ensure that youth discharged from institutions had a place to live. In Orange County, CA, United Way is leading an effort called Destination Graduation, which has helped more than 26,000 students stay in school
  • Train 7,583 staff in afterschool and summer programming, that provide middle and high school students supplemental resources, including mentoring, tutoring, academic enrichment in the arts and STEM subjects as well as exposure to college opportunities and career possibilities
  • Engage more than 3,500 United Way community partners – like Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Scouts, 4-H and more – to provide enriching experiences after school and during the summer to help youth succeed

For nearly 130 years, United Way has been the unifying force that brings together community leaders, organized labor, faith-based groups, corporations, nonprofit organizations and governments. United Way is a worldwide network dedicated to building a better life and stronger community for everyone, serving over 61 million people each year.

An infographic of the 2016 Global Results Snapshot on youth success is here. To learn more about United Way’s work to fight for every person in every community, click here.

About United Way’s Global Results Snapshot

The Global Results Snapshot is a common, limited set of indicators that United Ways report on annually to demonstrate our shared impact across communities. The framework aggregates data across United Ways based on indicators in key impact areas: childhood success, youth success, economic mobility, access to health, and community engagement to demonstrate the collective investments the network is making to drive community change deliver results for individuals, families and communities.

[1] *The Global Results Snapshot represents data from 154 United Ways, reporting 2016 data in 2017 that represents 147,474,530 people in their respective metropolitan areas.

About United Way

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.9 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide and $4.7 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in 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. Follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

This May is Mental Health Month, Let’s Start Talking So We Can Start Changing.

Mental illness. It has become a taboo talking point in society, up there with politics, age and salary. Across dinner tables and cubicles, among family members and colleagues, there are just some things you don’t discuss … right? Not when it comes to mental illness.

Look around you. Chances are someone close to you is suffering with their mental health. In fact, one in five adults in America experiences mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It’s not just strangers, either. It’s your uncle, your boss, your classmate. It’s me.

I was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in high school, a good 10 years after I first noticed the emerging signs. What started out as repeating things verbally turned into touching objects four times (compulsions) and having obtrusive thoughts (obsessions) that would last weeks, months and even years. I was shackled by anxiety for much of my youth. I was lost.

For the longest time, I thought OCD was a “life sentence” handed down to me by the universe with no possibility for parole. It wasn’t until I got older and sought help that my mindset began to shift. I could choose to let the disorder define me, or I could use it as a catalyst to maximize my life. Before I knew it, OCD had cultivated a sense of default appreciation and a knee-jerk thankfulness that I now cherish.

I’m not alone. If you’re suffering, you’re not alone either. There are 48.3 million people in America who suffer from mental illness—from athletes and celebrities, to teachers and engineers. People in your past and folks in your future. Mental illness is pervasive. And often, people aren’t getting the help they need, either due to embarrassment, a lack of resources or simply not knowing where to turn.

But there is hope. And there is help. From the counseling services supported by United Way, 2-1-1 and MISSION UNITED, to the myriad community, online and government programs, resources to support one’s mental health are available. But that’s not enough. To create sustainable solutions, we need to keep bringing the topic of mental illness out of the conversational shadows.

Imagine what could happen if we change our perception about mental health as a society. If we make it the centerpiece of our conversations instead of brushing it under the dialogue rug. If we begin to accept the escalating reality instead of looking the other way. If we start asking for help—for ourselves and our loved ones—instead of staying quiet. If we speak up.

This Mental Health Month, let’s start talking so we can start changing.

by: Nick Thomas