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.

#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 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

6 Ways to Help Kids Combat Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss – which is what happens when school’s out and young minds sit idle — accounts for two-thirds of the achievement gap in reading between low-income children and their middle-income peers by ninth grade. The good news is that we can close the gap and help students stay on track even when they are out of school. It’s as simple as making sure kids have access to books and enriching activities, a caring adult to help them improve their reading and math skills, and good nutrition to help focus the mind. Here’s what you can do to help kids combat summer learning loss:

  • Volunteer to distribute meals and read with kids at summer food sites. In Cocoa, FL, United Way of Brevard’s Feed and Read Program provides nutrition, mentoring, and free books to low income children during the summer school break. Each child can read one-on-one with an adult and in a group, and receives weekly back-pack meals and age-appropriate books to keep in their personal library. Efforts like these depend on volunteers: about 80 reading volunteers will help out in Brevard County this summer, plus about 40 more that help run book drives and inspect and sort books. Some of the food packing events have up to 250 volunteers.
  • Expand digital access to books. United Way of Brevard also helped bring myON, a digital reading platform, to all Brevard public elementary school students, providing each child with access to more than 5,000 free books with read aloud, dictionary, Spanish/English translation and other instructional techniques. Learn more about myON and explore what options are available at your local library or school.
  • Enroll a child in a summer reading contest. Most libraries have a free summer reading program with prizes and rewards for children who read throughout the summer.
  • Donate toys, books, puzzles and board games to libraries and out of school programs.
  • Tell Congress to protect funding for summer school and after school programs.
  • Spread the word about summer learning loss. Share these tips for creating or finding enriching summer learning opportunities.

Maintaining and sharpening reading and math skills in the summer months is one of the best things we can do to help all children grow and thrive. Contact your local United Way to find out how to volunteer to help keep kids on track to be successful in school and in life.

 

MEI COBB,  

Blog: Installing a Love of Reading in Young Children

Nearly one third of Florida’s third graders attending public school can’t read at minimally proficient levels.  And, unless they improve their skills, these kids are four times more likely to drop out of high school.

That’s where United Way’s ReadingPals comes in. We know research shows that reading aloud to kids can help them develop into strong readers – a building block for a lifetime of academic success. ReadingPals connects passionate, committed volunteers with preschoolers who need a little extra help getting ready for kindergarten.

For 30 minutes each week, volunteers help kids build vocabulary and other social skills by reading high-quality books and engaging them in interactive learning activities.

For the past five years, ReadingPals has provided more than 1,700 children with more than 7,000 hours of reading intervention and meaningful activities, along with more than 5,000 take-home books. Currently, 15 United Ways throughout Florida are participating in the initiative.

“It has been genuinely heartwarming to witness the progress each child I’ve worked with has made,” said John L. Callaway, III, who is entering his third year as a ReadingPals volunteer.

Book donations are key, because increasing the number of books available to children at home increases the likelihood of that child engaging in reading voluntarily, which improves their overall literacy skills. ReadingPals offers early learning beyond the classroom by providing each child with a minimum of four take-home books, along with activities to promote kindergarten readiness. At the end of the program, each child receives a “Transition to Kindergarten” kit that includes books and a calendar of summer activities for families.

You can do your part to provide positive reinforcement and personal attention to a child who can benefit from a little extra reading support.  Reach out to your local United Way today to find out how you can help a struggling child in your community discover the wonders of reading.

Christine Sanchez