Minutes into my first day of teaching, I already could see Aljason’s limitless potential. My fourth-grade classroom brimmed with energy and possibility, but Aljason’s hand was the first in the air with almost every question.
We all know every child has limitless potential. Yet, persistent gaps in education are all too familiar—among our Minnesota zip codes and even within schools—along racial and class lines due to systematic barriers.
The same motivation that drove me as a teacher drives me to action now as Director of Education at Greater Twin Cities United Way. All children deserve the quality opportunities and education necessary to develop college and career-ready knowledge, skills, and mindsets so they can chart their course in life. We believe when our kids do better, our community does better.
Where is United Way taking action?
Let me provide just three examples.
One, in the Greater Twin Cities, we know children living in low-income households may need additional support and resources to promote healthy growth and development.
That’s why United Way funds and promotes quality early childhood care and education for kids from birth to age five. Along with our partners, we successfully advocated for more than $140 million in state funding for home visits and early learning scholarships for nearly 10,000 children every year who are most at risk in Minnesota. We support organizations like Centro Tyrone Guzman’s Siembra Montessori program, a 4-star Parent Aware, culturally-relevant early childhood program.
Two, as kids grow, exposure to new skills, self-discovery, and mentorship are hugely important for college and career readiness. That’s why United Way invests in youth development programs to provide all kids with access to additional support and resources to reach their full potential.
“I knew statistically I was a student who wouldn’t make it past high school. I learned that we all struggle- but the future is not determined by the bumps in the road, but rather by how we choose to swerve around those obstacles,” said Haley, a participant with Big Brothers Big Sisters (a United Way partner agency.)
Three, closing the achievement gap in our community requires action at the systems level and support for quality programs, as well as simply rolling up our sleeves in direct service. Over 100,000 students in need each year go back to class without foundational, essential supplies, like a backpack, pencils, and notebooks. As a result, United Way will bring together 4,000 volunteers to assemble backpacks filled with school supplies for about 25,000 Twin Cities kids during Action Day.
Where can you take action?
- Advocate: Learn more about the issues and the work of organizations like MinneMinds to improve access to high-quality early childhood education and Ignite to advance afterschool program public funding.
- Volunteer: Register to join us at Action Day on Thursday, August 9, at Target Center and send our hometown children back to class set up for success!
- Donate: Make a gift by buying a backpack for a child in need! $28 helps a local student go back to school ready to succeed.
Small actions add up to make a big difference in our community. Your time, donation, or voice will help all kids access quality opportunities and get the education necessary to reach their full potential. United Way hopes you’ll join us this summer, because your action matters to education.
Anne Soto is the Director of Education at Greater Twin Cities United Way. She began her career teaching fourth grade in Warrenton, North Carolina. Prior to joining United Way, Anne helped launch Educate78, an Oakland nonprofit that works to increase educational opportunity through school design, parent advocacy, and support of strong teacher pipelines. She has nearly 10 years of experience in education grantmaking & direct program work. Anne received her BA from the University of Minnesota (Go Gophers!), and MBA from Indiana University as a Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation Fellow. She lives with her husband and two-year-old son in South Minneapolis.
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