A Year of Uniting – Preparing Youth For Success

At United Way, we envision a world where all young people — regardless of background or zip code — graduate ready to succeed in careers and life. To get there, every community needs everyone united around the wellbeing of young people, especially those who come to school with the most complex challenges. 

In 2019, United Way brought companies, schools, nonprofits, and numerous volunteers together to provide meaningful learning experiences, giving young people the opportunity to reach their full potential and to prepare them to contribute to every one of the industries our region relies on — and those we haven’t yet imagined.

This year with an investment of $4.92M and a network of 130 nonprofit partners and eight United Way programs, we helped 62,792 children and youth fall in love with STEM, make new friends, build their confidence, and much more. We focused our efforts on the most vulnerable children — immigrant students, children from low-income neighborhoods, and others who have fewer opportunities to spend time learning outside of school in safe, supportive environments. 

Here are three ways that United Way strengthened the efforts of communities across the region in 2019 — leveraging partners who know their communities best and helping them support their most vulnerable children and youth. 

We inspired 1,700 Boston youth to pursue a career in Science Technology Engineering or Math (STEM)

Who best to inspire young students to a career in STEM but the companies right in our backyard? United Way connected new partners — Gilbane, Eklus Manfredi, Autodesk, Nitsch Engineering, FableVision — to BoSTEM– a United Way-led, a cross-sector, city-wide initiative to engage Boston students in STEM learning where in 2019, 1,700 students had STEM learning experiences.. The results were great! 74% of students said they’d be interested to work at a STEM job when they you get older and we saw a 15% increase in students saying they knew what steps they had to take to get a STEM job. We also launched externships — opportunities for Boston Public School teachers to learn about the kind of careers their students can prepare to pursue, helping them contextualize their learning. 

We expanded United Way’s deep commitments to the success of our region’s public schools in improving graduation rates for English Language Learners

Seeing the number of English Language Learners on the rise, United Way expanded its AmeriCorps program already operating in public schools and afterschool programs across Lynn and Salem to the City of Gloucester. Gloucester Public Schools, concerned about how their district can meet the needs of a growing population of English Language Learners, added a new partner in United Way, whose 30 AmeriCorps members tutor and mentor some of the most vulnerable students in Lynn, Salem, and now Gloucester schools and after-school programs. The MA Service Alliance recognized the quality of United Way’s program by awarding an expansion of federal Corporation for National Service funding. With the addition of five more members iin 2019, United Way can serve 100 additional English Language Learners. In the words of Lynn Public Schools Superintendent, Patrick Tutwiler, “No matter how heartfelt or genuine the effort, districts like ours can barely tread water, and often sink, without meaningful partnerships like the one we have with United Way.”

We built the capacity of United Way’s network of 70+ out of school time programs to address the Social & Emotional Wellbeing of their students

The youth programs United Way donors support — afterschool, mentoring, and youth leadership programs — play an integral role in helping students succeed in school and reach their full potential. The vast majority or all of the youth they serve are facing complex challenges including poverty, homelessness, learning to speak English, or having a parent impacted by opioid or other substance abuse. For kids who have experienced trauma, it is game changing for the trusted adults in their lives to recognize how to help them best participate, learn, and work with others. United Way funded programs often report their #1 challenge is to support the social and emotional wellbeing of these students. In 2019 United Way launched a learning community to build the capacity of our network of 70+ programs in Boston, on the North Shore, and in the Merrimack Valley. Program staff come together regularly to explore how to support the social and emotional needs of their students. At a time when teachers, administrators, and families have also turned their attention to the importance of social and emotional learning, United Way is filling the important role of helping dozens of community agencies to share a set of common goals and strategies. 

We connected Opportunity Youth – those who are disconnected from school or work — to education and careers 

2019 was an exciting year for United Way to begin seeing traction with Launch — an initiative aiming to test new approaches for connecting opportunity youth with education and careers. We engaged close to 200 young adults, providing coaching and connecting them with education, training, and careers. Key partners include the Boston Private Industry Council, Lynn Housing and Neighborhood Development, and Jewish Vocational Services with funding commitments from the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Miller Foundation.

Additionally, through State Street Foundation, United Way partnered with nine Boston-area nonprofits to train youth workers to provide financial coaching to youth and young adults who are not connected to school or work, preparing them for the future.