United Way Leaders United Quarterly - Summer - Page 5

Making Sure Kids Graduate
The time leading up to high school graduation
is often a period of excitement and hope for the
future. But for kids who lack family support or
who have fallen behind their peers, their senior
year can be full of fear, frustration and worry
if they’ll even graduate. And if they do—what’s
In 2017, 20 percent of Metro Nashville Public
School students did not graduate from high
school. We are determined to change that
statistic to make sure every one of our students
makes it through to graduation and has a plan
for continuing education, vocational training
or career success. To do this, we must give
our students social and emotional education
through their middle and high school years.
9,000 of our Opportunity Youth—people ages
16 to 24 who are unengaged in the workforce
or post-secondary pathways—are failing to
find education and employment paths that are
substantial to economic mobility. Most aren’t
accessing state scholarships due to barriers
including costs beyond tuition such as books
and testing fees, limited transportation options,
FAFSA eligibility and difficulties navigating
complex systems.
United Way partners to help students through
the student loan process and to prepare for
the ACT. We also provide opportunities for
mentorship, guidance and support to the whole
family to help kids walk across the graduation
stage and move onto adulthood with confidence.
United Way recently awarded two $100,000
Prosperity Pathways grants, one of which
went to the Opportunity Youth Collective which
will use the funds to reengage those students
who have fallen out of the pipeline and help
connect them to workforce training or
post-secondary education.
Not only is literacy essential for a child’s
fundamental education and future, it also has
significant impacts on physical health and wellbeing.
Did you know that talking to babies helps their
brains grow?
Even though babies may not speak in full
sentences yet, talking with them—reading aloud,
singing songs, telling stories, asking questions—
helps stimulate critical early brain development
that is the foundation for learning. Exposing
children to rich, engaging vocabulary or “language
nutrition” sets the foundation for cognitive ability,
literacy and school readiness.
Early language exposure is the single strongest
predictor of third grade reading proficiency with
long-term impacts on educational success and
A solid foundation of language nutrition—the use
of language, beginning at birth, that is sufficiently
rich in engagement, quality, quantity and context
that nourishes the child socially, neurologically
and linguistically—is critical in developing a child’s
capacity to learn.
Research demonstrates that the single strongest
predictor of a child’s academic success is not
socioeconomic status, level of parental education,
income or ethnicity, but rather the quality and
quantity of words spoken to the baby in the first
three years of life.
— Originally published by Governor’s Books from
Birth Foundation
U n it ed Way o f M etro p o lita n N a s h vi l l e

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