I don’t know about you, but it always seems like summer goes by faster each year.
As a parent, I know how chaotic it can be to prepare your children to go back to school. Having a junior in high school this year has given me a chance to reflect on my own childrens’ education throughout the years. I am so thankful for the education all my children have received in this wonderful community. The skills and bonds formed in the early years laid the groundwork for future success in the classroom and with basic life skills.
Success is possible because of the passionate teachers and support staff in our local school systems who understand that early education sets the tone for a child’s developmental and decision-making skills. As a mom, these are priceless.
Here at United Way, we focus year-round on improving the education, basic needs, and health of every person in our local community. Education is one of our top priorities - 46% of our funding supports educational programming. Getting kids ready for kindergarten, reading at grade level by third grade, and graduating on time with skills to be career and life-ready is critical to a community’s overall success. Our community places a strong emphasis on education and support systems for children and families. It is nice to have one less thing to worry about this year knowing that all children are getting a great education that will set them on a path to success.
We understand how critical our next generation will be in helping build better futures. That’s why our summer was literacy-focused – Keep Kids Thriving. United Way provides wrap-around support, to ensure our children learn to read and then read to learn! United Way’s Keep Kids Thriving is a campaign dedicated to providing the tools and resources for young children to help prevent the summer slide. Every child and young person in our community should have the knowledge, skills, and experiences to succeed in school, work, and life. Research tells us that reading proficiently by third grade is a significant predictor of high school graduation and career success. The good news is that United Way can help close the gap and help students stay on track through our literacy initiatives – Whitfield County Schools Power Lunch, Dalton Public Schools Summer Reading Sites, Murray County’s literacy initiatives, United Way’s Little Free Libraries, and Born Learning Trails!
This summer, United Way put 3,983 books in the hands of children to support healthy summer reading habits and to prevent summer reading loss. United Way of Northwest Georgia is making sure kids have access to books and enriching activities to help them improve their reading skills.
United Way has also been investing energy into our Youth United program. Youth United is your source for high school student-centered volunteer opportunities. Led by a Youth Council, Youth United offers unique and impactful service projects to improve the lives of children and families in Whitfield and Murray Counties. Youth United develops and nurtures the next generation of philanthropic leaders by creating unique leadership and community engagement opportunities for youth in grades 9-12.
Our Youth United Council is composed of 14 high school students from across Whitfield and Murray Counties. The Council is a youth-directed, staff-supported program in which students work together with community leaders and community service providers to identify and improve community problems through volunteerism. The Youth United members were required to provide two letters of recommendation and were individually selected by our Volunteer Center Committee through an application process. Through their experience as Council members, they will be able to see the impact of their service to the community and United Way! United Way of Northwest Georgia is one of only seven organizations chosen to receive a leadership initiative from the University of Georgia by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The Innovations in Community Leadership Initiative provides resources and technical support to communities and organizations in Georgia seeking to enhance their leadership development efforts.
So, as we kick off the United Way campaign season with Piet and Julian Dossche at the helm, know that a gift to United Way of Northwest Georgia is a long-term investment in the children of our community that will pay great dividends. You are enhancing school readiness and strengthening family dynamics; preventing child abuse; providing mentoring, safe places to play, tutoring, and leadership development; and keeping youth on track for school, work, and life.
Happy Back to School!
Amanda Burt is the President of United Way of Northwest Georgia.
The mission of United Way is Improving Lives, Inspiring Donors, Uniting Community.