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United Way announces education investments, new funding strategy

4/17/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Staff Writer

SUMMIT COUNTY — United Way of Summit County has announced it will invest more than $1 million annually from its Community Impact Fund during the next three years in community programs and initiatives that advance improvements in the area of education.

A three-year cycle begins this year for United Way’s grant awards in its Education Impact Area. The organization’s new education funding strategy includes an open application process that considered requests from the entire community and alignment with the goals and framework of the Summit County Cradle to Career Alliance. All requests for education funding were viewed against six transition points critical for student success: ready for success by kindergarten; third grade reading; eighth grade math; on-time completion of ninth grade; graduate ready for success; and college and career persistence.

“We know that by coordinating programs in a highly strategic manner, we are able to stretch each dollar further while delivering even better results,” said Bob Kulinski, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “It’s a model with proven results in other regions, and we’re seeing significant impact thus far in Summit County.”

The United Way review process looks for quality programming and results, integration of services and collaboration with other organizations and leverage through matching funds, as well as alignment with United Way’s investment priorities. As a result, five new educational programs and initiatives were funded:

  • Summit Education Initiative (SEI) — Cradle to Career Alliance, to identify, initiate, execute and evaluate programs to improve performance on agreed-upon student outcome, $113,000;
  • Building for Tomorrow — Early Childhood Initiative, to provide high-quality early education to children under age 5, $65,000;
  • Child Guidance & Family Solutions — Toddlers and Preschoolers Succeeding, to reduce preschool expulsion and suspensions through training and daycare on-site behavioral support, $60,000;
  • Asian Services in Action Inc. — READY Program, to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate school readiness education for immigrant and refugee families with preschool children, $37,706; and
  • Law and Leadership Institute, to increase diversity in law school and in the legal profession by inspiring and preparing students from underserved communities, $15,000.

“Our review team was largely comprised of education experts and United Way board members with specific interest in the education area,” said United Way’s Vice President of Community Impact Donae Ceja. “Having the people with the most knowledge at the table led to an unprecedented process in determining how best to utilize scarce dollars in a time of increasing need, rapid change and new opportunities.”

“We are grateful for the support of United Way,” said Derran Wimer, executive director of SEI. “The relationship between SEI and United Way goes well beyond financial. United Way is a true strategic partner as we work together and with others to enhance efforts such as universal access to high-quality early learning experiences, youth mentoring, extended learning opportunities and fostering a shared understanding of youth social emotional learning outcomes that impact student success.”

The following education programs also received funding awards from United Way:

√ Akron Area YMCA, Early Child Care and Education, $118,000

√ Akron Area YMCA, Phoenix School, $50,000

√ Akron Area YMCA, Youth Development Program Evaluation, $5,000

√ Akron Urban League, Summer Enrichment Camp, $45,000

√ Big Brothers Big Sisters of Summit and Medina Counties Youth Programs, $60,000

√ Boy Scouts of America, Great Trail Council, Venturing Programs, $35,000

√ Boys and Girls Clubs of the Western Reserve Youth Development, $100,000

√ Greenleaf Family Center, Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK), $45,000

√ Greenleaf Family Center, Teen Parent Support, $37,000

√ Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio, the Business of Babysitting — A Financial Literacy Program, $40,000;

√ Info Line Inc., Childcare Connection, $25,000

√ Project Learn of Summit County, Literacy Programs, $60,000

√ Shaw Jewish Community Center of Akron, Early Childhood Education, $25,000

√ The Arc of Summit and Portage Counties, Advocacy for Students With Disabilities, $40,000

√ The Arc of Summit and Portage Counties, People Together, $10,000

√ The Salvation Army of Summit County, The Learning Zone, $40,000

In addition to investing in education through its Community Impact Fund, United Way also invests in income stability, health and basic human services. United Way’s investments in these areas for 2014-15 will be announced later this year.

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