Preparing Youth for Success

At United Way, we believe that all young people should graduate from high school prepared to succeed in work and life.

In April 2023 United Way of Massachusetts Bay announced a new strategy and refocused impact areas. We are working on a new site that reflects this shift that will debut in September 2023. Until then you can visit our microsite to learn more about our new impact area: Pathways for Young Adults.

Low-income youth in Massachusetts consistently score 25-30 points lower on reading and math assessments than those in higher income brackets. These gaps in academic performance and personal skill-building can be the start of a trajectory of lifelong challenges, leading to fewer economic opportunities and lower lifetime earnings than their wealthier peers.

Despite one of the highest academic rankings in the nation, Massachusetts falls short when it comes to children from low-income neighborhoods. In addition to the academic achievement gaps, many under-funded schools lack the resources to focus on building social and emotional skills such as teamwork, problem solving, empathy, grit, and self-control. Competence in these areas has been linked to higher academic performance, more positive self-image, and fewer behavioral and substance abuse issues down the road.

Our Solution

We’re working to help the more than 73,000 youth in Massachusetts, ages 16-24, who do not consistently attend school or work and are at greater risk of long-term poverty, incarceration, and substance misuse. We’re offering practice with the emotional and social skills they’ll need to succeed, as well as building their credentials and experience for the world after high school. Through out-of-school programs, 41,000 K-12 students will work toward social and emotional readiness, and 3,600 off-track kids will find a path toward college and a rewarding career.

These efforts are all geared toward creating a higher skilled workforce that can sustain a thriving economy. We want to ensure that kids who face significant economic barriers can play a vital part in the workforce and their community, so we’re preparing youth for success by:

  • Pairing social and emotional skill-building with meaningful, hands-on learning experiences.
  • Expanding access to high quality programs that focus on putting disconnected youth on a pathway to advancing their education and/or career.
  • Supporting out-of-school time programs that focus on social and emotional skills like communication, teamwork, critical thinking, problem solving and grit.

Our Partners

We work with 117 strategic partner agencies in 142 communities to prepare youth for success. Our partners include:

  • UTEC
  • College Bound Dorchester
  • For Kids Only
  • Sociedad Latina

View all our agency partners

How We're Doing So Far:

United Way's Annual Investment in Preparing Youth for Success
Youth participated in out-of-school time programs to develop social emotional skills (like critical thinking and teamwork)
Youth age 16 to 24 engaged in college and career pathway programs

We can do even more with your help.

Strategic Initiatives

We bring together partners to pilot innovative solutions that target entrenched problems, address gaps in services, and scale best practices.

Summer Learning Collaborative

The Summer Learning Collaborative provides kids with critical learning experiences through a high-quality summer education so they don’t lose ground while they’re out of school, all while supporting their social and emotional growth. Learn more »



BoSTEM provides high-quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education during out-of-school time. Industry professionals volunteer their time and work toward BoSTEM’s goal of providing 10,000 Boston middle school students with a STEM foundation by 2022. Learn more »


This AmeriCorps Program >empowers 25 AmeriCorps members to provide academic, social, and emotional support to English language learners at public schools and community organizations in Lynn, Salem and Gloucester Massachusetts. Learn more »


The Marian L. Heard Scholarship

Be a mentor to tomorrow’s leaders
The scholarship provides first-generation college students with up to $10,000 over the four years they attend college. In addition, scholarship recipients get their own “e-Coach,” a United Way volunteer who provides advice and support throughout their collegiate journey.  Become an e-coach»


Give kids a STEM future
Be a part of the program that’s bringing valuable STEM opportunities to 10,000 Boston middle school students by 2022. We aim to increase STEM interest, academic success, and 21st Century skills by providing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities with STEM industry professionals and aligning curriculum/instruction across school and out-of-school time. Host a field trip or become a mentor!»

Make A Financial Impact

Provides 10 students with activities, supplies, and books that help stimulate learning and build pre-literacy, math and social skills.

Funds summer learning and enrichment programs for 4 elementary school children.

Funds Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math (STEM) experiences for 20 middle school children.

Provides a youth worker with professional development in social and emotional learning.