In 2008, United Way launched its initiative to cut by half the number of students who drop out of high school through 2018.  In order to achieve this, they focus on literacy and preparing students for success.  United Way’s focus areas include helping children enter school ready to learn, supporting reading proficiency by fourth grade, helping students transition to middle school, and encouraging high school graduation.  Via partnerships with local community groups, United Way brings its mission to fruition in a variety of ongoing initiatives:

  • Born Learning, a national engagement campaign, focuses on helping parents, caregivers, and communities support early childhood education.  In Chattanooga, Tennessee, where 60% of low-income children were entering school without the critical skills needed for success, the United Way spearheaded an awareness campaign that included literacy and other public services.  Seven years later, 30% more at-risk children are on track developmentally.
  • Achievers for Life targeted 147 sixth graders in Jacksonville, Florida to promote academic achievement and reading on grade level during the 2007-2008 school year.  These students struggled with attendance, behavior problems, mental health issues, and financial instability.  Using Family Advocates to work with students and their families, there was a 31% improvement in overall GPAs, 37% fewer suspensions, and 36% fewer failures in math and language arts.
  • Schools of Hope began in 1995 as a separate entity that later joined forces with United Way to recruit, train, and place community volunteers in schools to provide tutoring and personal attention.  By helping students gain critical reading skills, as well as give volunteers a chance to actively engage with their communities, Schools of Hope has helped significantly narrow the achievement gap between low-income children and their peers.

Through local partnerships and broader relationships with national programs like Americorps, United Way is helping to combat illiteracy and high school drop-out rates by supporting educators and parents with a variety of evolving programs designed to work with each community’s specific needs.