See What’s Ahead in the Education Quarter

Students choose books during distribution at a Comstock elementary school in 2017.

Last fall, United Way volunteers visited elementary schools in Battle Creek and Comstock to read and deliver books as part of the 2017 UW Book Drive.

The students were excited to listen to stories, and afterward they spread the donated books on the gym floor, eager to choose one to take home.

These were a bright spots on the journey toward our ultimate goal of improving graduation rates and reducing racial and economic disparities that affect them.

During July, August and September, you’ll hear more about other successes as we shine a spotlight on our Education impact area. You’ll also hear about the challenges in our region. The work is far from finished; just 30 percent of third-grade students in our region can read proficiently, a factor that significantly affects their chances to learn and graduate.

Data collected from our partner agencies in 2017 tell us that we’re making progress:

  • 80% of instructors who received in-class literacy coaching saw higher reading proficiency among their students.
  • 89% of students who were paired with volunteer reading mentors at three elementary schools in the region were proficient readers.

“Before third grade, students are learning to read,” said Vice President of Community Impact Matt Lynn. “After third grade, they’re reading to learn. That’s why our early grade reading strategies are so critical. Helping kids build reading skills can change the trajectory of their entire lives.”

Early Grade Reading Achievement is one of three strategic priorities United Way has set in place to measure and guide our progress. The other two – Early Childhood Success/Kindergarten Readiness and Social Emotional Wellbeing – are equally important in determining future success for our region’s children.

Using these strategies to guide grant-making decisions, United Way funded 48 programs at 32 agencies in 2017, investing $2,029,634 in strategic, innovative/interim and supportive grants. A new slate of innovative/interim grantees for 2018 will be announced this summer.

Over the next three months, you’ll hear more about why Education is one of our four main focus areas, what kind of work we’re doing, and the impact we’re seeing. On our website, as well as our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, you’ll find stories of impact, agency and corporate partner spotlights, volunteer profiles and more. You’ll also have the opportunity to join us for several Education-centered opportunities:

Education quarter events

  • United Way Book Drive 2018: From August 1-15, we’ll be collecting new or gently used books for children in K-3rd grade. These will be distributed to schools, after school programs and childcare facilities throughout Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Email for more information.
  • Impact Bus Tours: Coming in September, experience the impact for yourself by joining us on a tour of several partner agencies. Click here for more information.
  • Pop Up Giving for Education: Join us for a fun night of networking, snacks and giving. The crowd funds the donation pot, listens to three organizations pitch programs that impact graduation rates, then decides where the money goes. Click here for more information.

We encourage you to learn more about our Education impact area and join us! Together we can change the story to ensure our region’s children are not left behind.