CINCINNATI, Ohio (May 31, 2022) —
Dear United Way friends,
Last week’s tragic Texas school shooting and increasing youth violence in our own local landscape underscore the importance of preventative solutions that engage and support young people on a path to academic and employment success.
It consistently surfaced in United Way’s research to determine our opportunity areas for achieving systems change. Months of interviewing and surveying community members revealed they want more coordinated solutions, increased use of family feedback to improve social services, support for social and emotional skill-building and easy-to-find opportunities/training/education to obtain quality jobs.
Also, those interviewed want to build stronger relationships among youth, schools, parents and communities. A person’s network of trusted and valued relationships plays an important role in supporting economic mobility. Relationships, especially those with people very different from us, can help provide exposure to new ideas, experiences, people and communities – providing critical support as youth explore post-secondary education and begin careers.
As one community youth leader put it during a focus group: “I was not prepared to be an adult. If my own parents are not going to be there for us… No one will be there for us. A lot of youth don’t have anyone there to guide them, they are just winging it. (It’s important for) adults to be role models to help youth become good adults.”
United Way’s response is an opportunity area defined as “NextGen Success: Financial empowerment for young people through coordinated educational and workforce pathways.” We will spend $1.35 million with 12 Systems Change partners to identify systemic barriers and provide coordinated services that support young people’s academic and employment success so they can achieve economic well-being.
Many interconnected factors drive intergenerational economic mobility, including educational attainment of a child’s parents, the safety of the community, access to good nutrition, health care and healthy relationships. Perhaps the most important driver is education.
Yet, academic disparities and achievement gaps are persistent for young people living with low incomes, and striking educational inequities exist across the United States for students of color. Those inequities grow with special sets of challenges outside of the classroom, such as homelessness or involvement in foster care.
Here’s what we know:
How do we improve? While changing public school funding is a very long-term challenge, our Systems Change partners will explore shorter-term solutions to help address gaps by coordinating services and mobilizing advocates and volunteers.
Those solutions will be crafted with the input of young people and parents. It is time to stop making decisions for them and start making decisions with them.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati
P.S. — We need you! A core tenet of the Black Empowerment Works program is community involvement. Each year, we select a group of community members to make investment decisions. The deadline to apply is June 8. Visit UWGC.org/BEWapply to learn more and apply.