United Way women reach out to disadvantaged studentsWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
United Way Women’s Initiative continues to reach out to school children.
While the women’s group made headlines in May when it brought feminist Gloria Steinem to Toledo, one of its main objectives is in the classroom.
Successful Children, Successful Schools: Social and Emotional Learning in Toledo was started in the fall of 2006 at East Side Central Elementary, and was expanded to Sherman Elementary in 2007.
The objective is to develop social and emotional skills in children in five areas: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
Shannon Polz, United Way major gifts associate and coordinator for the initiative, said teachers and staff are provided training opportunities on how to engage students, as well as recognize what students may be dealing with at home.
One of the tools used is a morning meeting. Every morning, teachers conduct a greeting with the students who share what is going on in their lives. By giving them a chance to get problems off their chests, they might be free to learn a little bit more, Polz said.
The teachers also outline the schedule for the day, creating a sense of stability, she said.
The group also helps out with open houses, in addition to encouraging parents to get involved with their students. Last school year, the women hosted a movie night at East Side Central with pizza and popcorn.
“When we are doing the open houses, we are trying to bring the families into the school and make that a warm and inviting environment,” said group member Debbie Williams.
Williams is a founding member of the initiative, and when she stepped down as president, she wanted to start working with the families.
The initiative began with a focus on early childhood development with Right From the Start, which is now a United Way priority and called Success By 6.
The Women’s Initiative is also committed to keeping young mothers and pregnant teens in high school. With the help of the Toledo Chapter of The Links, the women raise funds for the Polly Fox Academy through an annual fall luncheon.
Women who designate $100 or more to the Women’s Initiative are members. Women who designate $1,000 or more are considered leadership members.
Since its inception six years ago, the initiative has invested more than $750,000 in programs that benefit women and children.