EARLY ED for President (NAEYC)
EARLY ED for President (NAEYC)
There’s a lot to celebrate about being an LGBTQ Minnesotan.
Historically, Minnesota has led the way for LGBTQ equality. Our civil rights charter was one of the first to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender. We were the first state in the union to defeat an anti-marriage amendment. The Twin Cities are known as a welcoming, accepting place for LGBTQ individuals and businesses.
But things aren’t necessarily looking up for our state’s LGBT youth. The truth is this: there is plenty of on-the-ground work to be done to achieve equality not just in our legal rights, but also in our safety, our security, and our success as Minnesotans.
Here are the top 6 ways Minnesota—and the US—is still behind the curve:
These stats may seem grim, but here’s the good news: people are already hard at work building and supporting our communities. Greater Twin Cities United Way’s Arise Project has invested over a million dollars in LGBTQ youth homelessness programs, transforming the ways that outreach workers, drop-in centers, and shelters support LGBTQ youth—all thanks to generous individuals like you who have decided to prioritize their gifts and focus on solving these problems.
Organizations across our metro are now focused on the unique strengths and needs of LGBTQ youth, and providing them with supports that work for them. We know that these culturally-specific programs work for our communities, and as a leader in this space, United Way is working with others to help build a foundation of support for everyone that lives in our region. The disparities we’re facing need community-led solutions, and we need the support of the broader Twin Cities to do it.
We are only as strong as our dedicated volunteers, donors, and community partners. We know that collective impact comes in the individual kindness of people everywhere—every hour volunteered, every dollar given, every moment spent working for youth adds up to a life-changing network of support for LGBTQ youth.
There are a number of things we can do to support LGBTQ communities in the place that we live. There are Pride celebrations happening around the county this month. You can attend with your network to learn more about what’s happening politically and socially in your area. You can get in touch with the LGBTQ employee resource group in your company or reach out to your local LBGTQ community center. And if you live in or near the Twin Cities, consider making a gift to the Arise Project – every dollar given here stays here to support the amazing LGBTQ people who call our region home.
Remember “Where’s the beef?” Originally a slogan to promote Wendy’s hamburgers, “Where’s the beef?” evolved into a phrase that questions the substance of an idea or product.
Today, a twist on that question might be “Where are the good jobs?” Because right now, too many people are struggling to find work that allows them to make ends meet, provide for their family and save for the future.
They need greater economic mobility and opportunity. They need better jobs.
Of course, few things are that simple. In many regions, employers can’t find workers with the necessary skills for high-quality open jobs. In northern New England in the U.S., employers in high-tech manufacturing and digital services are leaving because properly trained workers are in short supply.
A lot of ink is being spilled describing this mismatch between skills and available jobs. Here are some facts.
According to McKinsey, there are 75 million unemployed young people around the world, yet 40 percent of employers say a skills shortage is creating entry-level vacancies.
A recent Deloitte study predicted that the U.S. will need to fill 3.5 million manufacturing jobs over the next decade, but the nation faces a shortfall of two million skilled workers.
These studies are backed by personal testimonials of applicants told they aren’t qualified for work, and by employers frustrated by candidates without the skills necessary to run technologically advanced machines or programs.
Automation heightens this challenge. It is likely to reduce the number of available jobs further, with the consultancy PwC arguing that 45 percent of work activities can be automated.
Let’s be clear. There is not an easy solution to this problem. But that doesn’t mean we should despair, or look the other way. Because not only are people’s and family’s livelihoods at stake, so is global economic stability.
First, we need to continue to research this issue. As I mentioned, there is no shortage of experts discussing the causes and impact of the jobs-skills divide or the effect of increasing automation. It must continue so that we can make smart decisions about our complex and interconnected future.
Second, we need to continue to emphasize education and training programs that prepare people to work with advanced machinery or on programming. With machines and robots doing more of the jobs previously done by humans, workers must enroll in programs aimed at managing the tools of tomorrow.
By one estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. Odds are those with technical skills will be the most prepared and adaptable.
Third, we need society-wide solutions. This isn’t a problem for government. It isn’t a problem for business. Adapting to new economic realities is a problem for entire communities to solve together. That’s why we need non-profit and community representatives at the table to ensure any solutions are inclusive and sustainable – and provide opportunity for everyone.
At United Way, we’re doing our part. Among our efforts, we’re teaming up with a program called Generation, launched by the McKinsey Social Initiative, that helps to place more unemployed young people into jobs in five countries, including the U.S. Additionally, local United Ways are ramping up their job creation and skill development efforts, such as in Cincinnati and Des Moines.
We’re also bringing people together to talk about challenges like economic opportunity in their communities. For 130 years, we’ve been society’s bridge-builders, forging unlikely partnerships to solve tough problems. It’s a role tailored to the issues of today, from jobs and opportunity to race and community divides.
I know that questions like ‘Where are the good jobs?’ hit home with people. As a society, we need to step forward and do more to develop skills and create opportunity so that more people know how to answer it.
It is an exciting time. Tomorrow, June 21st, is the 10th annual United Way Day of Action, an event that mobilizes the caring power of volunteers to make a meaningful impact in more than 400 communities around the world. While United Ways in each of these communities will provide a variety of ways to volunteer, this year’s focus is on summer learning and food insecurity because too many kids fall behind academically and go hungry when school’s out.
Increasing learning opportunities and access to food during summer months is part of United Way’s strategy to help kids succeed in school, work and life. In celebration of Day of Action, more than 600 Staples associates in 31 communities across the U.S. and Canada will produce and distribute 1,700 literacy kits to children with limited access to books at home. In Orlando, Heart of Florida United Way is hosting a two-month book drive that has brought in over 60,000 books in the past three years, and a day full of literacy-related volunteer activities. Halfway around the world, United Way Mumbai will be mobilizing more than 300 corporate employee volunteers to donate books, read or tell stories and be part of fun-filled activities to instill the values of reading and education among more than 800 children from struggling communities.
Other United Ways are focused on making sure children and their families who rely on school food programs during the school year have access to nutritious meals during the summer months. United Way of the Greater Triangle will mobilize volunteers to pack and distribute weekend meal packs for 1,500 children in Durham, North Carolina. United Way of Bucks County in Pennsylvania also is leading a high-impact hunger event: volunteers for Bucks Knocks Out Hunger (BKO) will pack 100,000 shelf-stable meals for people in need. Other volunteers will harvest produce for area food pantries from Del Val University’s garden. In Jacksonville, United Way of Northeast Florida is hosting food giveaways in five different neighborhoods across Duval County, targeting students and families who are part of United Way’s Full Service Schools initiative.
And because any group of caring people can make an impact, United Way of the Ozarks is sponsoring the single largest one-day, community-wide volunteer event in Southwest Missouri. Local businesses and organizations take part by coordinating teams of employees to spend a day giving back to area non-profit agencies. Last year, over 2,000 volunteers from about 150 businesses and organizations completed nearly 300 projects at more than 100 non-profit agencies and schools in 10 counties.
United Way Day of Action is happening all across the world on or around June 21st. It’s not too late to get involved this week, or any time of year. Contact the United Way in your area to see how you can take action to improve your community -- in person, online, one day or many days.
Research shows that children with an involved father or father figure are more successful in life. When fathers engage in the lives of their children, those kids demonstrate better social behavior and do better in school.
According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, not only do kids benefit from an actively engaged father, but dads profit too. Fathers are just as likely as moms to see parenting as central to their identity. In fact, 54% of dads say parenting is rewarding all the time, compared to 52% of moms.
In support of dads in Corpus Christi, TX, United Way of the Coastal Bend and the Success By 6 Coalition hosted their second annual “Celebrating Dads” event. Designed to raise awareness of the benefits of a father’s involvement in a child’s life, the event celebrated, informed, and engaged men in a free and fun environment.
Complete with carnival games, educational goodie bags for both kids and dads, and countless parenting resources, “Celebrating Dads” gathered the community in the spirit of fun and support.
“Spending time with my son whether it’s Father’s Day or not is extremely important to me,” said Charles, who attended the event. “I liked going to a fun event I could take my son to, especially since Father’s Day gets less attention than Mother’s Day. Usually the resources and information are targeted for women, so it was good to see that fathers can get that information too as well as resources for us.”
Today, dads are playing an increasingly more critical role in the development of their children.
According to the American Community Survey based off of the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau for Nueces County, TX, an estimated 36% of children under six years old and 34% of six to 11 year-olds have fathers who do not live at home.
The Success By 6 Early Childhood Coalition, a United Way program, aims to ensure all children in the Coastal Bend area arrive at school healthy and ready to learn. Focusing on the needs of the whole child – their physical, intellectual and emotional health – Success By 6 assists families and child care workers to deliver the care, support and education needed to prepare kids for success at kindergarten.
“I am so passionate about this part of my work not only because this activity brings community awareness, but also we are providing information to change how we communicate with fathers through various community support systems and programs,” said Sherry Peterson, Director of Success By 6.
“Fathers who are doing well need affirmation and fathers who are struggling need our support.”
Many times, when I introduce someone to United Way, I must answer the question “so what does United Way actually do?”
Simply put, United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. But that only answers the “what”; the “how” is by making sure we’re in the right place at the right time.
Take tax season, for instance. Every year over 380 United Ways fund, operate, or support Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites so that those generally making $54,000 or less can utilize free, accurate tax preparation services offered by IRS-certified volunteers. Through VITA, millions of hard-working Americans access critical anti-poverty tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC).
As a network, we’re able to leverage perfect timing (like tax season), and placement (like VITA sites) for true impact: access to pro-work credits that allow hardworking families to keep more of what they earn for things like reliable transportation, childcare, or groceries.
Now, with Congress in the midst of negotiating comprehensive tax reform—we find ourselves once again perfectly positioned to make a difference. While the nation patiently awaits the release of a congressional tax reform proposal, 90 United Way leaders are on Capitol Hill today asking Congress to build on what works in the tax code by protecting and strengthening the EITC, CTC, charitable deduction, and VITA in reform. We’re calling on lawmakers to:
Increase the size of the EITC for workers not raising children at home and lowering the age of eligibility to 21. Congress should also protect the EITC and CTC in tax reform conversations to ensure these tools continue to effectively reward work and build strong families and communities.
Protect the full value and scope of the charitable deduction and expand incentives to give by making the charitable deduction available to all taxpayers, including those who take the standard deduction.
Formally authorize the Community VITA Grant Program, and shore up investments in the program to $30 million.
We’re doing what we can do be where we need to be and when, but we could use your help. Will you fight for working Americans with us?
Take action to strengthen the EITC here.
Take action to preserve the charitable deduction here.
The jump from high school to college can be a difficult transition. For students like Anthony Frazier, a junior at Middletown High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, that just got a lot easier thanks to United Way of Greater Cincinnati. Through a new partnership with the Middletown High School Future Center, United Way is piloting a speed-mentoring program designed to equip students with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to successfully transition to college.
Anthony, who was one of approximately 60 students who participated in the first speed-mentoring session held in February, spoke highly of the program. “I would definitely recommend speed-mentoring for pretty much anyone to help them be more confident in life,” said Anthony. “It also helped me from an interview standpoint and having more preparedness for that.”
The Future Center, which is in its inaugural year, was looking for a new program to help their students prepare for the next step in their educational careers. It just so happened the program aligned perfectly with United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s Bold Goals for the region: 85% of youth will graduate from high school prepared for the next step; 45% of adults will have an associate’s degree or higher; and 90% of the labor force will be gainfully employed.
“Once we looked at what our mission was, and looked at the goals and mission of United Way, I knew this would be a great partnership,” said Anisha Daniels, program manager of the Future Center. “I was truly impressed with the Bold Goals, and that’s exactly what we’re doing. Once that collaboration happened and we got our groups, it was all about preparing the students.”
The Future Center, which operates under the auspices of United Way agency partner, Community Building Institute – Middletown, is making a lasting impression. Terry Sherrer, a director of the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, had been involved in United Way’s speed-mentoring programs in the past and thought a partnership with the Future Center would be impactful.
“The program originally came from the mind of [United Way of Greater Cincinnati – Eastern Area Director] Sarah Ghee,” said Terry. “I really respected the program, and I knew it was needed in Middletown.”
While the program affords students the confidence they need to excel in the classroom and beyond, it’s just one of the many ways United Way of Greater Cincinnati is supporting youth success. In the past year, they have contributed to a 180% increase in quality early care and education programs locally, underscoring the importance of investing in students so that they may lead successful lives. That impact can be felt in the lives of Middletown High School students.
“As we’re [supporting] our juniors and seniors, who are preparing for the next step, we always want to be sure we’re preparing programming that is beneficial to them,” said Anisha. “After the event, several students started telling other students; they were speaking so excitedly about it. We had people who were game-changers and could offer opportunities to our students. It was a win-win for all!”
My first job growing up was washing dishes at the J&L Lounge in Hobart, Indiana.
I didn’t earn much, just $1 per hour. This was the mid-1970s after all. But I did learn some important life lessons, like the value of a buck and hard work.
Tips for getting into college weren’t on the menu, however. Born into an unstable household with two parents that hadn’t been to college, I had little idea what it would take to go to university, much less how to choose one.
So as high school graduation approached, it was mentors, coaches and parents of friends who showed me the way forward.
After I graduated from Ball State University and joined United Way, I became determined to help more young people like myself. I recognized how critical community had been to helping me achieve, and I wanted more kids to receive the same opportunities.
That’s why I’m proud that United Way works hard to provide greater opportunity for young people around the world.
One of our programs that offers youth support and helps them find their way is Character Playbook. Character Playbook, a partnership with the NFL, is tackling the uptick in bullying by helping students keep healthy social relationships during their critical middle school years. It’s an interactive course that teaches students by challenging them to better understand their own values and relationships so they can make friends and develop mentors who will support good decisions.
To date, more than 56,000 students have completed nearly 208,000 Character Playbook modules.
Healthy relationships are key, and so is graduating from high school. Studies show that graduating from high school is a critical determinant for future success. Since 2008 in the United States, United Way has made high school graduation a priority. By working with all community members – parents, teachers, counselors, even recent graduates – we’re seeing great results in places like Detroit, where the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s High School Turnaround Initiative has helped increase graduation rates more than 20 percent at one school.
For young people to get ahead, it’s also important for them to get the skills they need for good jobs. In San Francisco, the United Way of the Bay Area is partnering with the Mayor’s Office and the City of San Francisco to help disconnected youth from ages 16 to 24 develop new, in-demand skills. We then help them find positions. Since 2012, the program has connected more than 34,000 young people to jobs, providing opportunity to grow both personally and financially.
To me, it’s about giving people a chance. Young people don’t want things handed to them. They want to earn them. But you can’t earn what you don’t have the possibility to achieve.
Whether it’s learning how to build healthy relationships, or taking advice on how to succeed in school or on the job, a supportive community is critical to helping you get where you want to go.
That’s what I learned growing up, and it’s why United Way today works so hard to provide greater opportunity for thousands of young people in communities around the world.
Youth are the future of our communities. However, many young people face barriers that could prevent them from achieving their dreams. Across Canada, United Way Centraide is giving youth the support they need to get a great start in life, do well in school, find gainful employment, and reach their full potential.
Education is the framework upon which success is built. All in for Youth is a citywide initiative founded by United Way Calgary and Area which aims to reduce high school dropout rates and encourage academic perseverance. All in for Youth works with schools, government, corporations, agencies and individuals to build a social and academic support system that helps youth graduate high school and achieve their personal, educational and professional goals. To date, 6,854 meaningful connections have been made between Calgary youth and positive adults through this program.
Positive early development and a strong support system are also solid predictors of future success. Unfortunately, youth from low income families often face barriers to accessing the tools they need to succeed. Centraide Laurentides' Children's Fund gives youth from disadvantaged families equal opportunities for development, providing things like school supplies, prescription glasses, sports equipment, and summer camp registration to those in need. Centraide has invested over $1 million in the Children's Fund, which has helped more than 13,800 youth since its inception.
A place to sleep, be nurtured, and feel safe is a basic necessity for everyone. However, in Canada, 35,000 youth experience homeless over the course of a year. In response, United Way Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington introduced a program to reduce youth homelessness by granting vulnerable youth a temporary supportive housing environment. The program features full-time staff who teach basic life skills, necessary for successful independent living once youth transition out of the program.
Learn more about Kingston Youth Shelter, a new transitional home that is helping youth access a supportive housing environment.
Financial instability can affect every aspect of a young person’s life. For those struggling to find work, breaking out of the cycle of poverty and reaching their full potential can be extremely difficult. United Way Toronto & York Region’s Career Navigator™ is preparing the community’s youth, especially those facing barriers in the existing employment-support system, for a job. To date, 529 youth have received coordinated education, training and support services to help them obtain valuable industry-recognized certification and transition into a meaningful career.
By investing in opportunities for all of Canada’s youth to realize a better future, United Way Centraide is helping to improve our communities from the ground up.
It goes without saying that the middle school years can be a roller coaster. While some are exploring new interests, gaining greater independence and thriving, others are grappling with low self-esteem, academic pressures and feeling disconnected from friends and adults.
For today’s preteens, the pressures can feel overwhelming at times. At age 12, Dustin would wander the streets after school to avoid the domestic violence and drug deals taking place in his Pueblo, Colorado, home. He was failing his classes, and homework wasn’t even on his radar.
That’s when Jeremy, an assistant athletic director at a local university, stepped in. As a volunteer mentor with United Way of Pueblo County’s Middle School Mentorship Program, Jeremy’s first goal was to earn Dustin’s trust. It wasn’t easy; Jeremy would meet Dustin for an hour each week at school. After several months of building rapport, Jeremy asked Dustin to start bringing his homework to their weekly meetings. Their next session was spent tackling Dustin’s math assignment. Jeremy was later devastated to hear he scored a 58 out of 100, but Dustin was excited he came close to passing.
The Middle School Mentorship Program, now in its sixth year, helps at-risk youth in grades six through eight who have learning and behavior needs. The middle school years are typically when educators start seeing the first signs that a student may eventually drop out. Guidance and support from a caring adult, like Jeremey, provides kids the emotional and academic support they need to succeed.
Today, more than 100 students from five schools are participating in the program. Approximately 80% of student mentees have shown significant improvement in grades, attendance and behavior. At Pueblo Academy of the Arts, for example, 10 sixth-graders received academic achievement awards thanks to support from their mentors.
“Parents have called requesting the service because they feel it’s that important for their child,” says Andrea Aragon, president and CEO of United Way of Pueblo County. “A lot of times it’s simply sitting down with a kid and asking ‘How’s it going?’ to get them to start talking. Once the mentor-mentee relationship is established, students keep coming back.”
As for Dustin, he’s now in high school. He stays in touch with Jeremy, who cared enough to provide a guiding hand when Dustin needed it the most.
This month, thousands of people in more than 300 communities around the world are volunteering with United Way to make their community a better place through Day of Action.
United Ways across the country will be teaming up with 50 global corporations and others to create meaningful activities centered on specific challenges in their communities. This year’s national focus is on summer learning and nutrition.
Last month, Target employees stepped up to support United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Campaign for Child Well Being, which promotes the idea that if children thrive, communities can thrive. A recent United Way study found that nearly half a million children in the Greater Atlanta region live in communities with low child well-being.
Target is committed to changing that. Nearly 60 of its employees helped transform a local school into a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) Field Day with food and activities for more than 300 students. Students were physically active in potato sack races, hopscotch and kite flying. Their minds were stimulated with fun science projects like creating a volcano, before enjoying healthy snacks like fresh fruit, granola and yogurt.
But Target’s work didn’t end there. Its employees also worked with United Way of Greater Houston last month to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to community members in need. More than 100 employees and Houston Police Department officials pulled together to create 16 vegetable and fruit beds, and weeded 10 others. The crops will benefit 22,000 people, mostly children and senior citizens in the Houston area who have limited access to healthy meals.
Community partners like Target are invaluable to the work that’s happening right now in Atlanta, Houston and communities around the country. We invite you to also join us on Day of Action by contacting your local United Way to find out what’s planned for your area. Together, we can improve the building blocks for a good quality of life so communities everywhere can thrive.