TALLAHASSEE, Fla., May 20, 2015 – The goal of United Way of the Big Bend’s (UWBB) Education Initiatives is to prepare children to be ready for kindergarten, ready for high school and ready for life by focusing resources on critical areas in a student’s career. The education council is committed to working in three critical areas: early education, mentoring and increasing high school graduation.
Since 2010, UWBB has been invested in Early Education with the launch of READ UNITED. This program was developed with the intention of providing every first grade student in the Big Bend area a brand new book and the opportunity to be read to by a guest reader. This year, marked the fifth annual READ UNITED event and over 150 volunteers joined efforts to read to over 300 classrooms in all eight counties in just five days and distribute over 4,500 brand new books to students.
In 2012, UWBB expanded its early education efforts to include ReadingPals which relies on over two-hundred volunteers to read after school to a struggling reader, one-to-one every week for the entire school year. Last year, the data showed that 51% of the ReadingPal students ended the year reading on grade level and made greater gains than their peers that did not receive additional interventions.
Last night, hundreds of volunteers gathered and were recognized for their efforts to improve early education outcomes in our community by their participation in the READ UNITED and ReadingPals programs. United Way Board of Directors, Education Council members, Women UNITED members, Leon County Schools Administration, Business Partners and Sponsors,
and hundreds of community volunteers attended a thank you celebration at The Gathering, above Madison Social. The Education Volunteer Celebration signifies an opportunity for UWBB to thank its outstanding volunteers, partners and supporters with a celebration held in their honor. All of the speakers, including Katrina Rolle, president and CEO of UWBB, Bernice Cox, President and CEO of The Bacall Group, Dr. Barbara Wills, Assistant Superintendent of Leon County Schools and Courtenay Garcia, Director of Education Strategies at UWBB, expressed their gratitude to those in the audience and to the community at large for stepping up and helping our youngest students to read on grade level by the time they reach third grade.
To date, UWBB’s Education investment has included:
- Donation of 32,000books to our Big Bend students.
- Engagement of over 1,200 community volunteers.
- Investment of 17,680 volunteer hours for an economic impact of $391,435!
“Our vision is to create communities where children are blossoming and ready to learn when they start school, where every child is supported by a caring adult in their life, and where every child graduates from high school. Thank you for being a part of our journey to success,” Courtenay Garcia shared during her evening remarks.
“ReadingPals has been successful and allowed students to receive much needed mentoring without missing instructional time or time in creative arts classes. We appreciate UWBB’s efforts to collaborate and bring this innovative program to our schools,” said Superintendent of Schools, Jackie Pons. Thanks to The Children’s Movement, local and statewide partners and Carol and Barney Barnett, ReadingPals programs across the state – including the Big Bend – are increasing the number of students who are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.
UWBB is actively recruiting committed, caring ReadingPals for the 2015-2016 school year. For more information about United Way of the Big Bend’s Education Initiatives, please contact Courtenay Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-488-8325. Or you may visit the United Way of the Big Bend’s website at www.uwbb.org or like us on Facebook.
United Way of the Big Bend serves eight counties. In our 70 year history, we have invested over $100 million help those in need, and worked to find solutions for issues facing our community. Our work addresses basic needs, helps families become financially stable and provides opportunities for children and youth to succeed. For more information, please visit us online – www.uwbb.org – like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.