Three ways United Way fosters learning

The world is full of new and exciting things to learn, especially for kids. But, for some, access to resources, tools, and supports are limited, which causes barriers to learning.

Children make up about 23% of the U.S. population, and less than half of Missouri and Illinois students scored at or above grade level in math and reading in 2019. Fostering learning can be challenging because of a variety of factors, like how, when and where a child receives education. But United Way’s strong network of nonprofit partners works to help children achieve success.

Here are three ways United Way fosters learning through our network of nonprofits.

1. Lending an extra hand

Support and involvement help improve a student’s academic performance, attitude and behavior, among other things. Having the support of a caring adult is a difference-maker – no matter whether it’s a parent, teacher, guardian, coach or mentor.

For example, 45% of at-risk youth with a mentor enroll in postsecondary education, like college or technical school. That’s why United Way supports programs like The SoulFisher Ministries’ ENAL (Educate Now to Achieve Later) program. ENAL ensures students in the Riverview Gardens School District have access to mentors to help them realize their goals.

Having a mentor helped change the trajectory for Arissa, who entered the ENAL program in grade school. She was struggling in school and with low self-esteem. Her mentor helped her develop a plan to feel confident in herself.

“When I doubted my self-worth, The SoulFisher Ministries’ staff would help me discover and sometimes rediscover who I was,” Arissa said. “This helped me build strong leadership skills.”

2. Providing stability

For young adults, having stability is important to keeping a schedule and staying on track for the future. United Way’s nonprofit partners provide stability through programs that create safe spaces – spaces for them to practice job skills, build contacts and hear from experienced professionals.

“People from underserved communities are seeking the power to determine their own reality,” said Wendell Covington, Jr., executive director of NPower Missouri. “This is a vocation where people can be self-sufficient, and that will give the individual the power to transform their community.”

NPower Missouri provides a virtual learning space for students to succeed in gaining skills for a career in the tech industry. The program’s NPowerMATCH platform aims to bridge that gap between critical resources and young adults who need mentors.

3. Connecting learners with services

Whether it’s virtual learning during COVID-19, finding afterschool care or finding resources for a child with learning differences, United Way 2-1-1 is always there to answer the call. By dialing 2-1-1, families from across our region can access ways to foster learning.

In a typical year, more than 47,400 youth gain access to safe and productive afterschool and summer programs because of United Way support. In January, our support provided one-time grants to several nonprofits for programs and services to youth in the Greater East St. Louis area and surrounding communities. The funding will allow these organizations to support thousands of people through summer and afterschool programming.

Together, we can ensure more kids have access to learning and skill-building opportunities.

Both the community and nonprofit efforts to support youth’s accessibility to educational support are essential. And with the community support from our companies and individuals in the St. Louis region, United Way and its nonprofit partners can continue to fight to help all kids get the support they need.

By working together, we can make a difference.

Take action now:

Sources: The State of America’s Children; Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education; National Center for Education Statistics; The National Mentoring Partnerships

James Taylor
James Taylor