Kitson: Focus on education crucial to communityWritten by Bill Kitson | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Our community is at a critical juncture. As many people are coming to realize, not enough kids are graduating from high school and the effects are rippling across the entire community. We must graduate all kids from school prepared for work and life. Period.
This is why United Way is focusing on education as our top priority and why we continue to push — hard — for accelerated cooperation, collaboration, and progress between Toledo Public Schools (TPS), nonprofits, neighborhood groups, businesses and the entire community.
The first phase has included increasing awareness and sparking conversations around the education issue. Last October, United Way hosted a screening of the education documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’.” The screening and subsequent community discussion, presented by O-I, were meant to be conversation starters. And boy, have they inspired some interesting discussions. Social services. Schools systems. Administrators. Teachers. Unions. Parents. You. Me. How can we all work together to ensure our students are succeeding?
United Way also announced at the community discussion our endorsement of Issue 5, the proposed TPS levy. To borrow a quote from my own guest editorial at that time, “We have chosen to endorse the levy because we can’t afford not to.” Not only has United Way invested considerable time, energy and resources in our education initiatives and programs — many of which serve TPS students — but our community as a whole cannot afford to keep losing kids, which is exactly what is happening to the majority of students who drop out on a daily basis.
When these students drop out, they often become a product of the streets or the prison system. They begin a cycle of poverty few ever break. And the effects of this cycle on our region’s economic development are absolutely devastating.
Although education frequently remains at the forefront of conversations and news, it is unfortunately often for the wrong reasons. Let’s show the amount of passion for helping our kids learn to read at grade level that we show when a public figure makes an ill-thought-out remark that’s taken out of context. Let’s advocate as strongly for all schools to access federal funds for nutritious school lunches as strongly as some advocated against the levy. Let’s remember, while it sounds trite, it truly is about the kids and getting them across the graduation stage.
It is going to take every one of us pitching in to make a difference. It will take a local businessman volunteering a few hours of time every other week to teach kids how to become financially stable. It will take a stay-at-home mother volunteering to tutor a child in reading for an hour every Wednesday while her kids are at school. It will take you writing a letter to your superintendent advocating for every single school to take the steps to access federal funds for healthy breakfasts and lunches. There is a way each and every one of us can leverage our time, talents and abilities to help.
Toledo Free Press is doing its part. They have committed print space so you can learn more about successful community programs whose work can be replicated in other areas of the community. Programs you could even take part in. These stories may also shed light on the challenges they faced to become successful. That’s a good thing.
I hope you follow this series during the next 12 weeks. I hope you share in the excitement we feel about the achievement from many of these programs. I also hope you share in some of the frustration we have felt as you learn about the challenges impeding our progress. Most importantly, I hope your excitement and/or frustration gives you hope and propels you to action because we truly need you.
To find ways to get connected, please feel free to contact the featured programs directly. You can also visit our website at www.unitedwaytoledo.org/volunteer or dial 2-1-1 at any time to get connected to volunteer opportunities.
Bill Kitson is president and CEO of United Way of Greater Toledo.