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Moving Forward after High School: What Options do Cleveland Students Have?

Photo Of A High School Graduation - United Way of Greater ClevelandWith high school graduation rates on the rise, more students are entering the working world with a high school diploma or equivalent than ever before. Moving toward financial stability, students in Greater Cleveland have a number of options after high school—from entering the workforce to attending a university—and there are support services for whatever path students choose.

Attending a College or University

Many higher-paying positions require some type of degree or certificate. Many schools offer scholarships for continuing education opportunities, and outside organizations like College Now of Greater Cleveland provide further funding avenues, as well as mentorship and counseling opportunities.

Learning a Trade

For recent grads who don’t want to spend another four years in school but would like to secure a stable, good-paying job, trade schools offer an attractive alternative. While many high schools have done away with their vocational programs, many community colleges and organizations offer partnerships with businesses to provide continuing education opportunities.

For example, The Centers for Families and Children’s El Barrio Workforce Development program, funded in part by United Way of Greater Cleveland, offers training in hospitality and service industries. It also maintains partnerships with Cuyahoga County Community College and the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to offer three-month programs for mechanics and train or bus operators.

Going Directly into the Workforce

Some students may choose to move directly into the working world, and they can find stable employment in several industries throughout Greater Cleveland, including restaurant, retail, and nonprofit work.

Cleveland is a nationally recognized foodie paradise and offers recent graduates the chance to work in everything from Korean barbecue to rooftop bars and lounges. The restaurant industry can prepare employees for future careers in culinary arts and possible entrepreneurship.

Retail work can help anyone from fashionistas at major labels to tech-heads working at a computer repair store find their niche.

Nonprofit work through an organization offering a living stipend, like AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps, offers recent graduates a chance to travel while helping those in need at home and abroad.

Programs like Youth Opportunities Unlimited’s Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates can provide career coaching and support, including career exploration, summer job placements, and internships.

These are just a few of the many partners working with United Way of Greater Cleveland to find financial stability for recent high school graduates. Whether grads hope to pursue continuing education opportunities or enter the workforce directly, options abound!

Photo Credit: US Department of Education

Finding the Right Fit: Working Volunteering Into Your Schedule

Photo Of Volunteers Collecting Food - United Way of Greater ClevelandNonprofits are always looking for volunteers—from food pantries to mentors or web designers—but uncommitted or unreliable volunteering can hurt an organization more than the free labor can help. In a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service, one in three volunteers who give their time in one year, do not give their time the next.

To curb turnover and make the most of a volunteer opportunity, here are some considerations to take into account when looking for volunteer work.

What’s Your Level of Commitment?

From single-day projects to several year engagements, there are volunteer opportunities for every commitment level. Volunteer training or orientation often takes time from paid nonprofit employees, so high turnover rates cost organizations more than just a loss of labor.

When thinking about where to do volunteer work, keep in mind who you will be working with. A single-day community park or school renovation project takes less commitment than mentoring youth.

For example, students at George Washington Carver Elementary School, a participating school in the United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Wraparound strategy, want to build a relationship with volunteers.

“It’s relationship building that shows there are people in the community cheering them on,” said site coordinator Tiffany Allen. “Every time I introduce someone, [the students’] question is always ‘When are they coming back?’ They’re really interested and appreciate when people can come back.”

Are You Passionate About the Cause?

Donating your time to an organization in line with your interests and passions can increase commitment. Research local organizations involved with causes you’re interested in and find the ones that are the most successful.

Keep your professional skills in mind as well. For example, if you’re an accountant or good with numbers, Enterprise Community Partners could use your skills as a tax preparer for filers qualified for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

What Type of Work Fits You?

You’ve evaluated your commitment and found a cause you’re interested in. Now, it’s time to find volunteer work that matches your skill set and personality.

If you like kids, you could perform volunteer work at a school or community center. If you’re not as much of a people person, look at beautification projects like United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Hometown Huddle at local schools.

Whatever your interests or time frame, United Way of Greater Cleveland’s Get Connected site can help connect you with volunteer opportunities and track your hours.

Giving Back Doesn’t Always Mean Giving Money: Alternative Ways to Help Your Community

Photo Of Volunteers Handing Out Supplies - United Way of Greater ClevelandMaking Cleveland greater, together, takes money and time. For those short on the former but willing to give the latter, here are some great ways to donate your time to those in need across Cuyahoga County through community outreach.

Join a Community Garden

More of a warm-weather activity, joining a community garden provides volunteers the opportunity to grow crops without owning a large plot of land. This is especially popular in urban areas where greenery and space are harder to find.

Cleveland boasts several community gardens including the Rid-All Green Partnership in Kinsman. The urban farm, consisting of two greenhouses and four hoop-houses, provides locally grown produce and aqua-farmed fish to local institutions and families.

Always looking for community outreach volunteers, Rid-All Green offers orientations every Saturday at 10 a.m. at 8129 Otter Road. Volunteers can help with everything including planting seedlings in the spring, conducting site tours, and helping with children’s workshops.

Tutor or Coach Kids

For those with less of a green thumb, tutoring, mentoring students, or coaching local sports teams allow volunteers to interact with Cleveland’s youth in a variety of different ways.

The low-income achievement gap—the differences in test scores between children in low- and high-income families—has been widening since the 1970s. School districts segregated by a neighborhood’s income can create barriers to quality education, including large class sizes, underfunding, and low expectations for student success—a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy—according to the National Education Association.

To combat this, many districts are always looking for volunteers to help engage students. They also often need tutors for homework help, lunch monitors, and role models or mentors to encourage students. Cleveland Metropolitan School District needs volunteers at all of its elementary and high schools and offers online registration for those interested.

Other groups like College Now of Greater Cleveland encourage Cleveland’s youth to look toward their academic future and pursue post-secondary education. Their mentorship program connects the organization’s scholarship recipients with professionals to provide college-going advice to students and professional contacts for transitioning into the working world.

Organizations like Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland and Cleveland Muny Football League offer volunteers opportunities to coach teams, instilling values and sportsmanship in area youth.

Work with Senior Citizens

Senior citizens are one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, and Cleveland’s senior community is in need of community outreach.

Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging has several locations across Greater Cleveland, with services including transportation and a companion program. The senior companion program links older adults with other senior citizens to help with shopping, daily chores, and friendship.

Work at a Food Pantry

In 2013-14 alone, more than 245,000 Cuyahoga County residents were food insecure—meaning they didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, according to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Coupled with one in five children facing hunger across Northeast Ohio, organizations like the Food Bank have their work cut out for them.

The Food Bank acts as the central clearinghouse for donated and collected food for the region. Its kitchen prepares meals to be distributed throughout the region, and many of the organizations it works with are run completely by volunteers.

Volunteers can help with everything from sorting and packing non-perishables to cooking and food distribution.

United Way of Greater Cleveland and its partner agencies are always looking for corporate and individual volunteers to help meet organization needs through community outreach. Shown to have a positive impact on self-esteem, physical and mental health, sign-up today to receive information on how to make Cleveland greater, together.

The Importance of Early Childhood Education in Creating Successful Futures

Photo Of Young Students - United Way of Greater ClevelandPreschool is typically the first structured learning environment for toddlers, designed to instill critical building blocks needed to succeed in life. These include social skills, emotional development, academic awareness, cognitive abilities, and speech. According to a National Education Association research study, “providing a high quality education for children before they turn five yields significant long-term benefits.”

Social Skills and Emotional Development

Early childhood education helps children learn how to play and interact with others and communicate effectively to best reduce conflicts. With continued and proper guidance, learning appropriate social skills can drastically change how a child interacts with others in a positive fashion throughout their lives. Skills like sharing, impulse control, and following instructions are all greatly improved.

An article from the National Association for the Education of Young People stated, “The absence of positive social interactions in childhood is linked to negative consequences later in life, such as withdrawal, loneliness, depression, and feelings of anxiety.”

Academics

Children with preschool experience excel at math and literacy skills, and they also show an enhanced curiosity for science. These are strong indicators that a child will continue to thrive educationally. Small projects are implemented to teach kids, producing a less stressful environment. Games involving matching shapes, sizes, or numbers are common tools, among others.

Additionally, many learning disabilities can be identified in early childhood education, and interventional support can be instituted if necessary.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Young children need teachers who take time to work with them individually, in small groups, and sometimes with the entire class to help them develop their cognitive and social skills, their language abilities and their interest in learning new things about the world.”

Cognitive Skills and Speech

Children develop or expand their vocabulary and fine-tune their speech at an early age. “By age 5, children essentially master the sound system and grammar of their language and acquire a vocabulary of thousands of words,” stated Eric Hoff, Ph.D., in a research paper published by the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Preschools provide environments to help kids cultivate conversational speech patterns and communicate more effectively, better preparing them to master the sound system and grammar.

A research report published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development revealed that children who attend preschool show “increased high school graduation rates and decreased crime and delinquency rates.”

United Way of Greater Cleveland funds numerous programs through its Community Impact agenda to support early childhood education for low-income children in Cuyahoga County. The importance of preschool in developing social and emotional development and cognitive and speech skills using specialized academic strategies is of great importance. When all children are given the opportunity to learn at an early age, they are more prone to succeed in life, becoming a vital part of their community’s success.

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