Prepare Children to Succeed

BOLD Goal 2: Prepare Children to Succeed

Why We Invest

Nationally recognized research points to the long-term benefits of providing high-quality early childhood education to low-income children. We recognize that students and families must be supported as they progress through school from cradle to career.

The Issue

68% of children in North Dakota and 55% of children in Minnesota ages 3 and 4 are not in preschool. 

Students who read proficiently by third grade are 4 times more likely to graduate from high school.

The Action

We increased the number of children enrolled in quality pre-K programming by 40% over the past 4-years.

We collaborated with community-based nonprofit service providers and school districts to provide school-based behavioral and mental health support in all metro and rural Cass County school districts.  

There is a growing body of nationally recognized research pointing to the long-term benefits and return on investment (ROI) from providing high-quality early childhood education to low-income children. The benefits not only improve kindergarten readiness levels but improve third-grade reading levels and high school graduation rates and dramatically increase the lifetime earning potential for students who benefit from quality early childhood experiences.

Most notably the research of Noble Prize winner and University of Chicago Economics Professor Dr. James Heckman consistently demonstrates the social and economic impact of investing early in a child’s and family’s life. *  Additionally, when targeted toward economically disadvantaged families, these early investments continually demonstrate a strong ROI, not only for the child and family but the larger community as well.

Early childhood development is a SMART investment: the earlier the investment, the greater the return

United Way recognizes that students and families must be supported as they progress through school. Nationally and locally, a high school diploma is no longer enough to get by in the current job market.

A Georgetown University report projects that by 2020, 65% of all jobs in the United States economy will require postsecondary education and training beyond high school compared to 28% in 1973. The trends responsible for the increased need for a skilled workforce include a transition to a skill-intensive service economy with increased productivity, demands for more-sophisticated goods, and a rise in information technology.

Twenty-first century skills (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication) can help set one individual apart from another and allow a young person to successfully navigate the relationships with colleagues, employees, and superiors that are an essential part of success at any job. Community organizations have a role to play in supporting the development of these skills for all youth. A widening skills gap is plaguing the workforce, meaning that today’s workforce is not prepared for tomorrow’s jobs.  An even more alarming problem is that youth from low-income communities do not have access to the same opportunities to build desired employability skills as their more affluent peers. Afterschool is helping to close this skills and opportunity gap. **

Similar to early childhood education, there is evidence of a significant correlation between program quality and the impacts of improvement on youth development outcomes.  The higher quality score a program has, the more youth are engaged on average.  The level of engagement in the programming directly relates to the youth descriptions of the experience both in terms of positive peer interactions and more-frequent opportunities for agency or sense of control.  More youth-reported positive peer interactions and greater opportunities for agency are associated with greater growth on youth development outcomes such as Self-Management, Interpersonal Skills, and Positive Mindsets. ***

United Way will continue to place a high emphasis on partnerships and programs that can demonstrate a higher level of quality in programming, as quality programming ensures that children and families are exposed to positive nurturing experiences and can demonstrate effectiveness with outcomes. United Way recognizes that quality programming can occur in multiple settings and will continue to foster and invest partnerships between school districts and community-based providers to expand early learning opportunities. 

We are not currently accepting proposals for this community goal.  More details about the next grant cycle will be published in fall of 2021.
For additional information on our strategy, please see the previous Notice of Funding Available.

*Heckman, The economics of human potential 
**Career and College Exploration in Afterschool Programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics; STEM Ready America
***American Institute of Research | Exploring the Relationship Between Afterschool Program Quality and Youth Development Outcomes: Findings From the Washington Quality to Youth Outcomes Study