“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to
those who prepare for it today.” — Malcolm X
Education is one of the most powerful things in life. It allows us to find meaning, gain perspective, acquire knowledge, access resources, and perhaps most important, it allows us to seek new opportunities to advance ourselves, our families, and our communities. Irrespective of creed, race, and gender, education makes it possible for people to connect with people from all walks of life.
For these reasons, education is a core pillar of United Way of Central Minnesota (UWCM). Our work is multidimensional and supports a continuum of resources and learning, from birth to career. Communities cannot rely on educational institutions alone to provide the necessary resources and support for all citizens. UWCM is here to help.
UWCM Programs and Partnerships
“It takes a village to raise a child,” is an African proverb which is a sentiment certainly supported by UWCM and the educational opportunities and resources we strive to offer to the greater Central MN communities.
United Way Partner for Student Success is a coalition of business, civic, and educational leaders committed to supporting community partnerships that align resources, create awareness and advocate for financial support. The goal is to support every child inside and outside the classroom, to foster emotional, academic, and life skills needed to succeed in life. The program focuses on:
- Preparation for lifelong learning (birth to kindergarten)
- Imagine being behind before even starting school. This is the stark reality for over half of kids in Central MN entering kindergarten who are not meeting literacy standards. Kindergarten readiness prepares young learners with the basic skills, attitude, and support needed to embrace a life of continuous learning.
- Success in school (kindergarten through eighth grade)
- For a lot of students, school is a safe haven and a place of comfort and routine. For others, school is stressful, complicated, and meaningless. Our approach supports the education experience for each student in order for her/him to achieve individual success. We have a variety of initiatives and opportunities focused on success in school. One to highlight is our United 21st Century Community Learning Centers which you can learn more about here.
- Post secondary and career readiness (ninth through twelfth grade)
- We tackle difficult issues such as increasing graduation rates, having opportunities to explore a myriad of careers, assisting students with college and career readiness experience, navigating financial aid, and more. Our goal is to remove educational barriers to help all students realize their potential and achieve lifelong career fulfillment and happiness.
No one should navigate education for their child alone. Your “village” can include United Way of Central Minnesota. Contact United Way's 211 line to receive direct, and immediate, support and information about resources available to you and your family.
Education From a Distance
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education as it has been traditionally viewed. The school routines that were once regular and familiar have been turned upside down. And, the new challenges that have exacerbated issues and provided additional barriers will continue to be present while we continue to navigate the implications of the global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed families, and how we integrate education into our lives—and into our living rooms.
We sat down with Daniel Larson, Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Central Minnesota, to discuss what’s on the horizon for education in our community.
Q: Will education ever “return to normal?”
A: We believe that next fall (2021) classrooms will look much like they did in the past. But given the wide disparities for students living in poverty and students of color, our hope is that the current mandatory smaller class sizes could lead to a new and better “normal.”
Q: What does distance or hybrid education look like in Central MN?
A: Central MN is leading the state in innovative partnerships to support students in need, with up to 15 Distance Learning Support Sites that help students receive the technology, internet access, and guidance they need to stay connected and learning. Still, there are many families and students lost during this time without proper internet and guidance. And even for families with resources, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an all-time high level of stress.
Q: How can community members support students, educators, and parents?
A: Be kind! Be thankful! Teachers often have children too, and everyone is pressed for patience, time and support. Employers who understand the challenges their teams face and provide them with as much flexibility as possible will have happier and healthier teams. Students can be supported through United Way’s Learning Crisis Response Fund to help with distance learning connection, tutoring, and recovery of learning loss based on the missed time, interactions and educational engagement.
With social distancing and distance learning, students are facing increasing isolation from important resources and networks. Being kind, attentive, and resourceful in connecting with families around you can make a big difference for parents and children alike. Also, be aware of the possibility of mental health implications during particularly challenging times.
Q: How are you supporting kindergarten readiness, student success, and college/career readiness?
A: Our Innovation Child Care fund and our programs that have gone virtual are working hard to help prepare children and families for kindergarten. For student success, we are an example to communities across the country on how to identify unique partnerships to support students with Distance Learning Support Sites located in churches, apartments, commercial spaces, and more. We are facilitating virtual internships and career readiness programs and helping employers reach students through online portals.
Step Up for Education
Education has always been an integral part of our community’s health and well-being. And yet, there are still areas of great need and individuals and families who continue to be underserved. Our work in providing educational support for Central MN communities and individuals is not done.
Education is the passport to the future—and not only the futures of those in school, but the future health and well-being of individuals, families, businesses, and civic organizations. Contact UWCM today to learn how you can support education.