United Way Works to End America’s Education Crisis

Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. But with more than 1.2 million children dropping out each year, America faces an education crisis. The cost? More than $312 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.1These trends are reversible, but only when communities and public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.

Our Goal

In 2008, United Way launched a 10-year initiative to cut by half the number of young people who drop out of high school by 2018. It’s an ambitious goal, but by utilizing our core strengths — a national network, committed partners and public engagement capacity — we can achieve it.

Our Strategy

We can’t focus on high school alone. High school dropouts are 12 years in the making, usually starting early childhood education behind schedule. Chenango County's current graduation rate is approximately 84%, higher in some of the County's school districts and lower in others. And, our functional illiteracy rates are alarmingly high. Approximately 42% of Chenango County residents struggle with basic math, reading or writing skills.

Therefore, our education strategy must focus on supportive communities, effective schools and strong families — strategies, models and approaches rooted in research and dependent on collaboration. Tackling the education challenge requires reframing education on a birth to 21 continuum.

Our Local Work: Chenango County

The Chenango United Way works to make sure that children and youth have a foundation for success from cradle to career. Partnerships and community collaborations, as well as the annual funding of direct service programs, are helping us to support education initiatives and increase youth programming across Chenango County. For example: 

  • We have partnered with the Chenango County library system since 2015, delivering free books in the mail to children age 0-5 years, through the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. To date, more than 1,200 children have enrolled in this early literacy project aimed at increasing early literacy, improving kindergarten readiness and strengthening family reading skills. 
  • In 2022, 30 Students in Chenango County participated in the Youth Philanthropy Program which educated them on the current needs in Chenango County. This is a program that is funded by United Way of Mid Rural New York. 
  • In 2022, 33 children we had permission to acquire report cards that are enrolled in the KIDS program through The PLACE, 84% (28 children) received either meeting or exceeding expectations on their report cards. This is another educational program funded by United Way of Mid Rural New York. 

Education Research Overview

The Education Research Overview (PDF) gives communities and United Way partners a more detailed picture of the research grounding United Way’s cradle-to-career education continuum. It’s organized around United Wayof America's five education focus areas, dedicating one section to each. Each section frames the case for action (rooted in the latest research), offers strategies that experts suggest work, and gives examples of promising practices underway and innovative ideas from United Ways. 

How You Can Help

To reach our goal, we need your help. The strategies proven to work are those that connect communities to their schools: parent involvement; literacy volunteers in the classroom; mentors for disadvantaged students; business leaders engaged in early childhood advocacy. How can you help? Get involved in your child's classroom, read with your child on a daily basis, volunteer to help others learn to read!