The Power of Partnerships

Success Story Stephanie McLemore Bray
Published August 15, 2018

Back-to-school time was always bittersweet for me. My daughters are in college now, but I remember how it felt to drop them off on the first day of school. Each new school year was an opportunity for them to learn and grow. Central to their academic achievement was, and still is, the commitment that schools make to provide all kids with the quality education they need to reach and even exceed milestones on the path to high school graduation and beyond. However, for far too many from low-income families, success in school is a struggle.

There are many studies that link poverty with student achievement and the data are distressing. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 40% of the variation in average reading scores and 46% of the variation in average math scores across states, is associated with variation in child poverty rates. That does not bode well for California which, according to the Public Policy Institute of California, has a child poverty rate of 21.3% (about 1.9 million) when adjusted for cost of living. Without the social safety net, (programs like Cal-Fresh, federal and state earned income tax credits, child tax credits and school meals), the percentage would be 35.3% (about 3.2 million.) The five-county region (Amador, El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Yolo) that our United Way serves has an average poverty rate of 15.6%. Sacramento County has the highest at 18.4%, and El Dorado County has the lowest at 10.6%. 

Through our Square One Project partnership with Title I schools, which have the highest concentration of kids who live in poverty, our United Way is committed to keeping kids in school, keeping kids on track, setting high expectations for their success, and supporting their families along the way. By providing healthy meals after school, we give kids the fuel they need to focus on their homework. By providing reading support, we are increasing grade-level literacy rates, an important measure of future success in school. By educating parents on how to manage their finances, we open a pathway to financial stability for families. None of this would be possible without our partnership with school districts. 

As we head back to school, we salute our school district partners for investing with us to improve outcomes for kids. With their support of volunteerism in schools, programs with measurable outcomes, and by allocating financial resources, we have a strong Square One Project partnerships with the Robla, Center, Washington, and Elk Grove districts. Together, we are breaking the cycle of poverty through education one student and one family at a time.