When it comes to student success, sometimes something as simple as a caring conversation with an adult can make a huge difference.

Recently, more than 50 volunteers met with students in our On Track 4 Success schools for one-on-one conversations in which they discussed students’ progress and challenges they faced that affected their grades.

The Student Progress Conversations were a great experience for our volunteers. Even better, we recently followed up with the students, who told us that the meetings helped them tackle attendance, behavior and coursework issues—the A, B, Cs of the On Track 4 Success program—with strong successes.

Here’s what a few of them had to say about how the conversations helped them:

“I started focusing more on what we were learning. I was more confident, because they [the volunteers] were really nice. Finally, I made sure to complete my assignments.”

“After the conversation, I paid attention more, I did my work, and I know what to do now when I get fidgety.”

“My language arts grade has gone up, and I am doing better in science.”

“I turned in my work and I did less talking.”

“In math class, my grade went from 55% all the way to 74%. I think it also helped me with my language arts class, because I wasn’t turning my homework in. My grade [in that class] was 41% and went all the way to 87%.”

“I improved my attendance, and because of that I have improved my grade.”

Would you like to be a part of student success like this? We’re seeking a diverse group of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds to talk with area students about their third-quarter academic progress and their school experiences in general.

You’ll talk with students about their successes and challenges, celebrate their accomplishments and encourage them to finish the school year strong.

Each volunteer will meet with several students, and a half-hour training session will be held at the beginning of your selected session.

Please visit our sign up page to select a time slot at one of our participating schools.

Thank you for your interest in helping kids stay on track for a brighter future!

When Ron*, a former Green Beret, found himself in court on a misdemeanor assault charge, he was scared, anxious and without hope. That was until Baltimore City District Court Judge Halee Weinstein reviewed his case for the Veterans Treatment Court (VTC)—a program that provides area veterans the help they need to get back on their feet and become self-sufficient, rather than serve jail time.

Like many who have served active duty in the military, Ron had difficulty navigating the transition to civilian life. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, a brain injury, as well as anxiety and trust issues. Judge Weinstein, an Army veteran herself, recognized that Ron could benefit from the VTC program, which would help him avoid a criminal record that could limit his future housing and employment options.

The VTC matches participants with mentors who are also veterans, and can provide support and guidance for health, employment, legal, financial, counseling, and other services. As veteran participants reach program milestones, they receive “dog tags” recognizing their resilience, honor, courage and dedication during the course of the program. Graduates are awarded a stately “leave no veteran behind” keepsake challenge coin that represents their journey.

Because the most common struggles returning vets face are related to finding and keeping a job, finances, legal matters, substance abuse, mental health, relationships and homelessness, the VTC provides a coordinated approach to treating veterans, whether they’re eligible for VA benefits or not, according to United Way’s VTC program coordinator Jamie Meyers. “Vets in the program often have access to services they’re not aware of, and we help coordinate a treatment plan that leverages these services and provides others in order to move them more swiftly toward self-sufficiency and a more stable life.”

For Ron, the thought of returning to the courthouse in order to participate in the program, made him wary. Over time however, he developed rapport with the Judge, his mentor, the attorneys and his service providers. “I began to see that everyone was for me, not against me.”

According to Judge Weinstein, who was instrumental in establishing the VTC, “My favorite thing is to witness how hard the veterans are trying to change their lives and to see their pride in their progress. I feel that each one of them is my soldier and that I have an obligation as a former Army officer to take care of my soldiers. Our motto is ‘Leave No Veteran Behind.’ I am very proud of our entire Veterans Treatment Court team for believing in that motto and for working hard to try to make sure that every one of our veterans returns to having a productive life. I feel very lucky to be a part of this amazing collaborative effort to take care of those who have served our country.”

Today, Ron has successfully completed the program, and is now enrolled in school where he’s studying how to help others who suffer from emotional pain. He is a man who has faced adversity, demonstrated perseverance and has come full circle. He is a hero we thank for his service.

We salute all our veterans near and far who have served in order to protect our freedom.

The Veterans Treatment Court program is supported by a grant from the Maryland Judiciary’s Office of Problem-Solving Courts.

*Name changed to maintain client confidentiality.

With most families spending almost $700 on back-to-school clothing and supplies, United Way of Central Maryland decided to help parents and children in challenged neighborhoods start the school year off with a smile.

Thanks to a generous donation of 2,000 backpacks from Under Armour and another 500 donated in supply drives held at multiple companies, volunteers filled more than 1,200 backpacks with school supplies.

A colorful back-to-school United Way shuttle bus drove through the city just before the start of the school year to pick up boxes of binders, markers, notebooks and lots more from organizations participating in the drive, including Under Armour, Miles & Stockbridge, T. Rowe Price and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

That same day, backpack stuffing and giveaway events were held at elementary schools Van Bokkelen Anne Arundel County, Harford Heights in Baltimore City, Norwood in Baltimore County, Magnolia in Harford County and Cradlerock in Howard County. An additional 1,300 backpacks were distributed to area nonprofits and other schools.

“Academic success is often predicated by the first few weeks of school. This is why we are in every county in central Maryland today, ensuring that our students are given the opportunity to get off to a strong start this school year,” said Franklyn Baker, president and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland.

back to school thank you list-01

Where else could you learn how to administer the overdose reversal drug Naloxone, learn the story behind Boaty McBoatface, and hone your networking and professional skills while helping area kids from challenged neighborhoods?

The seventh annual United Way Emerging Leaders United (ELU) Young Professionals Conference, of course!

Three-hundred seventy-five young professionals gathered at the Four Seasons Baltimore to enjoy a wide variety of professional and personal development workshops, networking and making new friends, and a day out of the office.

This signature ELU event featured riveting speakers including Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen; author Henry Timms, whose work explores new power dynamics in today’s hyperconnected world; 25 energizing and inspiring presenters; and 18 sessions from which to choose. There was also an ice-breaking group session to create inspirational and supportive messages for area kids entering high school this coming fall.

The day concluded with a happy hour, where conference-goers could capture the spirit of the day with new friends at a photobooth; chat with author Timms, United Way President and CEO Franklyn Baker and other presenters; or head out to the balcony for more photos and a beautiful view of the Inner Harbor.

Check out photos from this amazing day and follow ELU on Facebook.

What some attendees and speakers had to say:

“These are the events that will empower me the most to continue to grow and do good in the world.”

“Dr. Wen did a fantastic job illustrating what it means to put passion into your work.”

“Henry Timms’ keynote speech was a logistical testimony to what I felt about the current shift of power dynamic, but couldn’t put into words. His presentation made me look forward to reading his book and learning more!”

“The ELU Conference is an invaluable experience. The quality of the speakers they put in front of you is immeasurable. It truly inspires you to become a leader, to make an impact—all while making great connections along the way. ELU is such a welcoming organization, and I am so proud to be a member.”

“The ELU Young Professionals Conference is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to both learn about how to grow yourself in your career, as well as engage with up and coming social issue topics that are relevant and necessary to make lasting change.”

“The speakers at the ELU Conference fostered conversations among my peers that were equally challenging and rewarding. From race and equity to fear of feedback, the topics we discussed enlightened my sense of purpose and direction in my career.”

“What a powerful day—bringing some of Baltimore’s best and brightest together! After this conference, I am full of hope and motivation to keep fighting the good fight in making our community stronger.”

“As up-and-coming young leaders, you are the New Power. You will be the new shapers of our communities.” –Franklyn Baker, President and CEO, United Way of Central Maryland

“Today is all about creating positive change: within yourself, with United Way and in the broader community.” –Elizabeth Paal, Vice Chair, Emerging Leaders United

“Doing nothing is never an option. Waiting for others to act is never an option.” –Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen

 

United Way volunteers were out in full force late this spring, helping elementary and middle school students get ready for a fun and productive summer so that they stay on track for academic success this fall.


 Slide into Summer Volunteer Reading Day

In early June, 90 volunteers visited 10 area schools to help 1,300 kids get excited about reading during Slide into Summer day. After reading the beloved and popular Mo Willems book, We are in a Book, to the children, volunteers coached them to write about the learning activities they wanted to do over the summer.

Participating schools:

  • Maryland City Elementary, Laurel
  • Samuel Coleridge Taylor Elementary School, Baltimore
  • Moravia Park Elementary School, Baltimore
  • Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore
  • Harford Heights Elementary School, Baltimore
  • Commodore John Rogers Elementary School, Baltimore
  • Norwood Elementary School, Dundalk
  • Tawneytown Elementary School, Tawneytown
  • William Paca / Old Post Road Elementary School, Abingdon
  • Cradlerock Elementary School, Columbia


Wrapping up the school year with wraparound support

United Way’s On Track 4 Success program, designed to curb dropout rates through early intervention, provides a host of support services for area kids in challenged neighborhoods. As the school year drew to a close, United Way volunteers met one-on-with students to review progress reports and to help them prepare for final exams. Together, the talked about the students’ successes and challenges, celebrated their accomplishments and encouraged them to finish the school year strong. Volunteers also shared advice and tips for studying and doing better in school. The events were rewarding for students and volunteers alike:

It was really valuable for the students to see that someone outside of school or their family  was interested in their success and could point them to help if they needed it.” –Molly Wolcott, volunteer

“After the conversation, I started focusing more on what we were learning. Also, I was more confident, because [the volunteer] was really nice.” –Student

“I was inspired to spend a few hours with teenagers who are so committed to getting an education and laying a foundation for the future that they want to have.” –Anna Helmet, volunteer

On Track 4 Success operates at Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School and Ben Franklyn High School in Brooklyn Curtius Bay, and Meade Middle School in Ft. Meade. To date, more than 500 students have received assistance through this groundbreaking program.

 


A fun and educational summer: It’s in the bag.

Hundreds of students in United Way’s On Track 4 Success program at went home with “Summer Sendoff Kits” thanks to our Women United membership group. The kits were filled with fun, educational and recreational goodies to take home at the end of the school year. Women United volunteers spent a fun June afternoon distributing the kits to students at Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School.

This past weekend, we all got a taste of spring, and some would argue, summer! The sun was shining, flowers were blooming and flip flops and shorts were in full swing. Spring appeared to finally be here! In the month of April, we not only get to celebrate nicer weather and opening day for the O’s, we have the distinct opportunity to thank the people who make us want to roll down the windows, take in the sunshine, turn up the tunes and SING – to our VOLUNTEERS.

United Way volunteers are hands down the best volunteers. They pour their time, their energy and their hearts into every United Way event they participate in – whether it be guiding the homeless at one of our Project Homeless Connect events, making meals or harvesting produce for families struggling with access to healthy foods, painting classrooms and creating summer reading kits for children, and outfitting supportive housing units for those who previously had no home, to name just a few.

Words cannot express the gratitude we feel; and so, to convey the meaningful and measurable impact that our volunteers have on us and the individuals and families we serve, we created a Spotify® playlist* with our favorite motivational “fight songs” for you to enjoy. We also took a moment to speak with some of our volunteers about the impact of the time they spend helping others means to them. We also asked a few of them what their favorite “fight songs” were! So, take a read, and then take a listen!

John Hyle, Wells Fargo

What role does volunteering play in your organization? It’s part of the culture at Wells Fargo—to be involved in and serve the communities we live in. Hands-on activities are key for our team members, who participate in activities that run the gamut from working in food banks to providing financial literacy education. One of the great things about Wells Fargo is that volunteerism is truly promoted and endorsed at all levels of the organization. If someone is passionate about a cause, we encourage and support that.

Adam Brinkman, M&T Bank

What does volunteering mean to you? I’m proud to work for an organization that supports its employees to give back to the community. I enjoy working on projects I know make a difference; experiencing that impact firsthand, selfishly, is a great feeling for me. As much as the folks your helping are thankful and appreciative, the wholesome feeling you get from knowing you made a difference or had an impact on someone’s day or situation is a feeling I chase and don’t get often enough.

Marvin Council, Anthem/Amerigroup

Why do you volunteer? I volunteer because I love to help others. Throughout my college years I was involved in many service organizations including my fraternity. Helping others in the community gives me an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. Many service organizations appreciate monetary donations but time is invaluable in many ways. Ultimately, I volunteer to help the greater cause.

Michelle Johnson, Anthem/Amerigroup

Why do you feel it is important to give back to your community?  It makes me feel good helping the people in my community.  Also, working for a MCO, I know that there are so many people in need of a helping hand, a smile and sometimes a HUG.

Bronwyn Legette, Cushman Wakefield

How does volunteering affect employee morale? We not only look at the work we do for The United Way as our civic duty, but also as an opportunity to team-build with those employees with whom we wouldn’t necessarily connect with on a daily basis.  Building a common set of goals and values through the opportunity to give back to others creates a bond and reinforces that which is the “glue” of our corporate culture.

What’s your favorite “fight” song? “18-Wheeler” by P!nk.

Graham Savage, Cushman Wakefield

What does volunteering mean to you? Volunteering is an opportunity to step out of our comfort zone to recognize those in truly dire need all around us. I am sure many people approach volunteering as just something you are supposed to do as a citizen. I do think it is something we all need to do, but it is devotional, too. It is incumbent on us to step up and help those in need when we can. This is part of understanding our common humanity, and allows us to be grateful for all of the gifts we have.

Douglas Brinkley, Cushman Wakefield

Why do you feel it is important to give back to your community? Because our community’s success ultimately depends on people who are giving and not taking.

Joy Wanner, Cushman Wakefield

Why do you volunteer? I volunteer my time and efforts with the goal of helping someone, even if it’s in the slightest way. Volunteering gives me a sense of pride and the rewarding feeling of contribution and selflessness.

Debra Mann, BGE

Why do you feel it is important to give back to your community? To help those in need and contribute to the common good. Whether it’s volunteering at a local event, helping a neighbor or making a monetary donation, it’s not the act that matters. Volunteering in all shapes and forms strengthens our communities, brings people together and provides us with valuable experience and insight.

Eric Jacobson, BGE

What kind of volunteer engagement opportunities have you participated in? I especially like to volunteer for activities involving food, e.g. meal preparation at Meals on Wheels, Baltimore Station, Moveable Feast, Our Daily Bread, Ronald McDonald House, My Sister’s Place, and Christopher’s Place.  For two years, on a bi-weekly basis, I have been a Meals on Wheels grocery shopper for a stay-at-home client.

Ervin McDaniel III, BGE

Why do you volunteer?  I feel compelled to volunteer, because I can. There are many people who cannot do things for themselves or for others, so when I am able to assist, to enrich or to help others grow – I am all for it. I have been the beneficiary of many who have volunteered their time, attention, skills and abilities to help me in my journey, so I am more than willing to help others. In the past, I have also underestimated the impact of my presence and the information that I have to share. As an African American male, the value of my presence around younger men and boys is invaluable – I did not always appreciate this, but I have been told that just being seen has had a positive impact on others.

Jan Boyce, BGE

Why do you volunteer?  My philosophy: “Work pays my bills, but volunteering fills my heart.”

What’s your favorite “fight” song? “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk

Ryan Coudon, Plano-Coudon Construction

How does volunteering affect employee morale? It’s definitely a positive. More and more, the Millennials want to make a difference and know what difference they are making. They don’t want to just mail money to a cause. They want to roll their sleeves up, get involved, give back, know that their contribution is meaningful and see how they are making a difference. So, I think it is an expectation of the new generation that they are going to have these types of opportunities at the workplace. To be competitive in that marketplace, I think you have to provide those opportunities for engagement.

I think also it is a great escape from the daily grind. You can have some stressful days at work and start to feel a little burnt out. Volunteering lets you step outside your routine, refresh yourself and feel good about giving back to the community. It gives a bigger picture of life than just work. Having the flexibility to do that while you are at work and to not feel guilty about taking some time for a volunteer project is a huge benefit and a huge morale booster. It’s important to get away every now and then, and feel that you are participating in something bigger than yourself.

What does volunteering mean to you? It feels good to be able to give back to the community that has been so good to us. It is so important for us who are so fortunate to give back and to enable this continuous improvement. As I have gotten older, I have also developed a deeper pride in our city and I want Baltimore to be the best it can be. When you hear bad headlines spread around, Brett (Plano) and I both find ourselves wanting more and more to be an advocate for the city and highlight the positives about Baltimore. At Plano-Coudon, positivity is part of our culture too and that feeds into our community work.

Sue Radtke, Plano-Coudon Construction

Why do you volunteer? I’m a huge animal lover. I feel that if I don’t volunteer and foster, then some of the animals won’t have a chance. By fostering, you save two lives — the animal that you take in and the animal that you make room for in a shelter. Some of the animals we get have been rehabilitated. They have gone from being completely shut down and not wanting to interact with anybody, to thriving in their new home and being loved. If we didn’t do what we do, they wouldn’t have that opportunity.

Pippa Duggan, Plano-Coudon Construction

Why do you volunteer? I like to make a difference and it gives me confidence. I think it is interesting to see how you can make a difference out there in the world. And I meet people and make lots of new friends.

Ryan Morton, Plano-Coudon Construction

Why do you volunteer? I was in the Marines for four years. I served in Iraq. With all these veterans, I know for a fact that they would put their lives at risk for me so I try to help. Plano-Coudon has been great. They have been nothing but supportive. And every year, they donate $100 to whatever charity I ask them to put it towards.

Andrew Hooker, Plano-Coudon Construction

Why do you volunteer? Giving back is the right thing to do. We have jobs. We have money. And we have time and talents we can give back to others who are struggling. That was one of the things that really attracted me to Plano-Coudon when I was looking for a new job. They brought up that volunteering and giving back to the community was important to the company and they even give employees paid time off to go volunteer. Now that I have been here for a while, it is nice to see that they really stand up to that. It’s not just something they say, it’s something they are actually doing.

Mike Junkin, Plano-Coudon Construction

What volunteering opportunities have you participated in? I volunteer once a month at Catholic Charities serving breakfast at Our Daily Bread. And I have done a couple of United Way events. I think my favorite event was through United Way and it was a day on a farm where all the food produced went to food banks and soup kitchens. We were harvesting cabbage and lettuce. That was really fun. We had a whole truckload of cabbage. You could really see what you were doing. It was tangible and it was obviously supplying food for a lot of people. That was a great event.

Tom Lotz, Plano-Coudon Construction

What volunteering opportunities have you participated in? Brett Plano does the breakfast service at Our Daily Bread, so I have done that about three times. I think it’s really cool. I have always been the type of person who wanted to do that kind of stuff, but I didn’t until I came to Plano-Coudon and saw people actually getting involved. Brett and Ryan actually do this. They don’t sit there and preach to us to do it. They volunteer themselves and they invite us to join in. I think that’s the right way, leading by example. People might not have the courage to ask other people to get involved. They give you that courage by their example. And by having these regular, volunteer events, like the breakfasts at Our Daily Bread, it also makes it much easier to get involved.

*Don’t have Spotify? Simply copy this list into any of your other music apps and enjoy!

  • “This is Me” by Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman
  • “Move Your Feet / DANCE / It’s A Sunshine Day” by Anna Kendrick, Gwen Stefani, James Corden, Ron Funches, Walt Dohrn, Aino Jawo, Caroline Hjelt, TROLLS
  • “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You” by Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
  • “Fight Song” by Ravhel Platten, Wildfire
  • “One Foot” by WALK THE MOON, One Foot
  • “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, The Essential Journey
  • “One” by Mary J. Blige, U2, The Breakthrough
  • “Good Time” by Owl City, The Midsummer Station
  • “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift, 1989
  • “Spice Up Your Life” by Spice Girls, Spiceworld
  • “Heroes (we could be)” by Alesso, Heroes (we could be)
  • “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, I Never Loved a Man The Way I Love You
  • “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Tarrell, United
  • “Happy” by Pharell Williams, G I R L
  • “Ten Feet Tall” by Afrojack and Wrabel, Forget The World
  • “On Top of The World” by Imagine Dragons, Night Visions
  • “Beautiful Day” by U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind
  • “Praise You” by Fatboy Slim
  • “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, Too Low for Zero
  • “Girl On Fire” by Alecia Keys, Girl On Fire

 

It’s 9:30 on a Friday night, and instead of happy hour networking or mapping tomorrow’s volunteer event location, a committed group of United Way’s Emerging Leaders United (ELU) members are finalizing schedule details for the seventh annual ELU Conference for young professionals.

This year’s event, with its impressive line-up of keynote speakers, panelists, tabletop exercises and workshops, will be held on Friday, May 11, 2018, at the Baltimore Four Seasons Hotel. The all-day conference has drawn central Maryland’s most involved and influential young professionals as well as consistently high marks for its content and networking and friend-making opportunities.

“ELU’s leaders wanted to create an event that would show the substantive impact that young professionals have in our community, and how advocacy and volunteerism can drive societal change,” said ELU Director, Jeremy Rosendale. This year’s theme is Leading the Way for Social Impactand topics range from social innovation and creating action for good to entrepreneurship and professional development.

Henry Timms, founder of #GivingTuesday and author of newly released book and anticipated bestseller New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World–and How to Make It Work for You will present the closing keynote address. New Power lays out the most important skill of the 21st century: the ability to harness the energy of the connected crowd (for better and worse). New York Times columnist David Brooks calls the book “the best window I’ve seen into this new world.”

As a testament to the value United Way of Central Maryland places on those who use their gifts to change lives, the organization will leverage the conference to present its coveted Philanthropic Five Awards, which recognize five young professional leaders nominated by their peers, colleagues and friends and who display an extraordinary commitment to communities and causes. This year’s winners include Ashley Fennig, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Alex Montanio, Gordon Feinblatt LLC, Derel Owens, Top-Notch Kidz, Shantell Roberts, Touching Young Lives, Inc. and Meredith Zoltick, Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition.  Read here for more details on the awardees.

Those who’ve attended the conference in the past have remarked on the quality of the speakers, the inspirational nature of the event, and the ability to network and socialize with other like-minded professionals.

According to one attendee, “The ELU Conference provided me with the ‘ah ha’ moment to reignite my passion and drive to give back to the community and to stand up to make a difference.”

ELU Chair Whitney Harmel sums up the annual event, “It’s been terrific seeing so much learning, networking, and philanthropy all under one roof today. That’s what ELU’s all about. We all have our own paths, and ELU is where these paths converge to create something powerful,”

After the closing panel, attendees are invited to enjoy a networking cocktail hour.

The 7th annual Emerging Leaders United Young professionals conference is May 11, 2018 at the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore. Register today!

 

2018 WOMEN’S FORUM

This year’s Women’s Forum was a sold-out event where hundreds of women representing area businesses, corporations and civic organizations gathered to celebrate the power of storytelling and learn how thoughtful discussions about our own stories can effect positive change. Attendees also engaged in inspiring conversations about how our own stories about race, inclusion and identity can empower others.

Michele Norris, a Peabody Award-winning journalist and founder of The Race Card Project, led the audience in an activity, engaging people to talk across differences and examining deeply entrenched narratives that define or confine communities.

The program concluded with a keynote speech from author and inspirational speaker Liz Murray, who overcame homelessness during high school to be accepted by Harvard University. Hosted at Morgan State University’s Calvin & Tina Tyler Ballroom, the Forum is the Women United group’s signature event to ignite the power of women to make a difference in lives across the region.

“The apartment that we lived in deteriorated over time — like your house would if you didn’t take your garbage out for two whole months — there was trash all over the floor, broken windows from arguments, our heads were covered in lice and we were chronically truant. Unfortunately, my experience is not a unique experience, this is a common experience and our kids in this country are up against a lot today,” Murray told the crowd. “I implore you from my heart to yours to ask yourself ‘who can you be the difference for?’ What I’ve learned throughout my life is that our destinies are all connected. Someone helped me because someone helped them. Today, you can help change someone’s life.”

The event also raised more than $30,000 to support United Way’s On Track 4 Success early intervention education program that helps keep young students on track to graduate high school. Based on research by The Johns Hopkins University Everyone Graduates Center, the program serves students and teachers in three area schools: Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School and Benjamin Franklin High School in South Baltimore, and Meade Middle School in Anne Arundel County.

Women United is a dynamic group of more than 1,400 local women committed to helping central Maryland families facing poverty through volunteering, advocacy, networking and educational events.

“I came to this event today looking to share experiences with other women living in the Baltimore region who were looking to make a real difference in our local community,” said Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Regina Aris and Women’s Forum attendee. “I was blown away by today’s speeches and activities – Liz brought me to tears sharing her story – and I’m inspired to move forward with my life trying to make a positive change in our community. We all learned today that action is better than inaction, even if it’s small. You don’t have to go out and do something big to make a difference in someone’s life.”

“We are a group of women who are determined to improve lives — one community, one family, one person at a time,” said Lori Villegas, United Way of Central Maryland’s Women United Chair and senior vice president, wealth advisor at Morgan Stanley. “Today’s event is a reminder of the work that needs to be done in our neighborhoods. We will continue working together to ensure the discussions held today help drive meaningful, positive change in our region.”

 

Report card time can be stressful for struggling students—but United Way used this time to help to change that for students in our On Track 4 Success program.

More than 50 volunteers met one-on-one with over 600 students who had recently received their report cards for candid and supportive conversations about school and beyond.

Volunteers asked the students to share what they liked about school and what they wished could be different, what they wanted to be when they grew up and their hopes for the rest of the school year.

The meetings were held at United Way partner schools in Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County that operate our early-intervention On Track 4 Success program. Partner schools are located in challenged neighborhoods where the majority of families are struggling to make ends meet. The goal of the program is to keep students on track to graduate by helping them at an early age to overcome academic and personal hurdles.

Volunteer Sandy Bartlett, who met with seventh-graders at Meade Middle School in Anne Arundel County, enjoyed being able to offer support and practical advice to students. “There’s a misperception that kids today are so tech savvy and can easily multitask. But I talked to students who found it difficult to concentrate in lab and other less-structured classes, so I suggested some strategies to help them when working independently, and a number of the kids really appreciated the ideas.”

And there was praise for a job well done. “One student started the school year later than his classmates and was dealing with a language barrier. As an athlete, he knew he had to work as hard in class as he does on the field—and he’s doing well. I praised him for his success and reinforced his behavior and habits that got him there.”

The success of these first student progress conversations has prompted United Way to plan more throughout the school year to coincide with report card distribution. Education Program Officer Natalie Dixon said, “The meetings were really amazing – students opened up with caring, adult volunteers, shared their hopes and dreams, celebrated their successes and made plans for how to turn around some not-so-positive situations. We’re thrilled with how well they went—for both the students and the volunteers.”

Naomi Tsegaye, who’s in her first year of teaching, talks about the benefits, support and success of the On Track 4 Success program—for her students and for her. On Track 4 Success identifies and helps young students stay on track academically, with the goal of helping them obtain their high school diplomas. This means brighter futures for them and for our neighborhoods.

“I teach at Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School in South Baltimore. It’s very hard when you have a class of 28 kids. That’s what was so helpful about On Track 4 Success—students like Julian, who I couldn’t give my full attention to, had someone outside of the classroom to help him succeed. He completely changed by the end of the year. He was more invested in his academics and more invested in me as a teacher, and I think the program helped build that trust.

“Knowing my students have an established relationship with someone outside of the classroom is helpful. I don’t want them to think I’m the only one there or the only one who understands what they’re struggling with. Having another person who’s on their side is really helpful.”

And her students weren’t the only ones who received additional support. Ms. Tsegaye also had access to resources to help her—and her class—succeed.

“I regularly met with a team of seasoned teachers. It was helpful having a structured time to talk about our kids and being able to receive advice on how to handle certain situations that I probably wouldn’t have known how to handle before.

When I speak with my other first-year teacher friends, a lot of them don’t have the kind of support we do with United Way. Being the only one in the classroom—trying to teach and handle things like lack of attendance and behavior issues—is very difficult. This year, I felt like I had more support; I had someone to fall back on. It made me more confident in the classroom.”

Learn more about On Track 4 Success and how you can join the fight for education.

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For more than 90 years, United Way of Central Maryland has been improving lives in the communities it serves: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, Maryland.

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