United Way of West Tennessee has officially merged its current education initiatives under an umbrella called the Office of Childhood Success. The organization created this classification to emphasize its increased support in the areas of early childhood development and educational programing across the region.
“We have identified four benchmarks for childhood success,” said Matt Marshall, President/CEO of United Way of West Tennessee. “Those are Kindergarten Readiness, Third-Grade Math and Reading Proficiency, Middle School Leadership Development, and High School Graduation.”
United Way programs designed to help children in West TN meet these benchmarks include: Bright Start West TN, a regional initiative in partnership with Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE) to accelerate early learning outcomes and close achievement and opportunity gaps for Tennessee children from birth through 3rd grade; Handle With Care, a partnership with the TBI and local law enforcement which provides heads-up notifications to school administrators of traumatic events experienced by students outside the classroom; The READ Team, which recruits volunteers through local churches to provide literacy assistance to 2nd graders, while also providing access to free books through their mobile library the WOW Wagon; the West TN Afterschool Network helps ensure children and families have safe and nurturing afterschool experiences through advocacy and community support; and Mentor U is a partnership of the five higher ed institutions in Jackson, works to provide mentorship and college exposure to local middle school students.
“Positive childhood development is central to our community’s ability to succeed in the future,” Marshall, continued. “We want to help ensure that every child in West Tennessee is given the opportunities to grow holistically.”
Later this month, Olivia Abernathy, Director of Early Education Initiatives at United Way, will be announcing Bright Start West TN’s strategic plan for aiding access to high-quality child care, providing wrap-around supports to families, and increasing access to health and behavioral services. Additional programming to come from the Office of Childhood Success will be unveiled at that time. Community leaders are invited to attend the announcement on January 27th at 8:30 AM at the TDOT Region 4 Auditorium (300 Benchmark Place).