Making the Grade

Date: March 14, 2018

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.”

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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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