My involvement with United Way started when I was a teenager growing up in Minnesota. My dad volunteered for United Way and one night I asked him why he spent so much time helping with United Way. His answer?
“It is the best way to help people.”
When I got my first job out of college I started volunteering with United Way. And 10 years later after co-founding my company, Custom Research, Inc., I started organizing United Way campaigns within the company. Throughout the years, I’ve served in a number of leadership positions with United Way; from contacting my peers and other CEOs and executives to 25 years as a board member, to chairing the annual campaign in 1996 to chairing the Board of Directors in1999-2000. One of my proudest engagements was helping put the wheels in motion for the merger of the United Ways of Minneapolis and St. Paul in 2000.
One of the reasons I’ve been a United Way volunteer for 53 years is that United Way continually reinvents itself to stay current and relevant to its mission of helping others. My dad was right; it really is the best way to help as many people as you can.
United Way investments in education are so important—they span the whole learning continuum, from cradle to career. We all know and realize the importance of these early years, how critical they are to ensure all kids have a great start in life and continue on a positive path.
Career Academies is leading the way. I spoke at a recent Tocqueville Society event about this unique high school program launched by United Way in 2015. The program works to close opportunity gaps in education, increase graduation rates, and foster job skills for young people. Not only does the program focus on careers that earn a sustainable living wage, but it also develops students as leaders, creating a confident workforce for our future.
Minnesota needs to stay competitive. For us to compete on a national (or, let’s face it, global scale) we need to work to close gaps by ensuring all of our young adults are ready for a strong career, whether that means college, training, or credentialing. That’s how we’ll create opportunities for all, and why I stay so passionately involved with Greater Twin Cities United Way to help make this happen for all our Minnesota kids.