Cleveland’s Success depends on the Next Generation

Andrew Katusin By Andrew Katusin, Education Program Associate, United Way of Greater Cleveland

In Greater Cleveland, we come together to support collective success, especially for our children. That’s just who we are.

The success of future generations, and our larger community, is directly tied to quality education beginning with the development of one major skill: reading. Our community continues to rally behind its children to provide support and resources needed for success. Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), United Way of Greater Cleveland, foundations and other local nonprofit organizations understand the importance and joined together to create a network to help our children become strong readers.

But there’s a challenge: demand is high, very high. And resources like time, money, books and teacher trainings for schools and community nonprofits continue to dwindle due to changes in policy and local and state economies impacting how schools receive funding and an increasing diversity in needs. When demand outweighs our ability to help students learn the fundamentals of reading – identifying words, connecting visuals of a letter to the sound it makes or rhyming – we all lose, and will continue to lose.

According to United Way’s funded programs data, in the 2014-2015 school year only 40 percent of children assessed and identified as reading below grade level were able to receive the help they needed – even with programs serving 18 percent more students than anticipated. The other 60 percent will, most likely, not read at grade level, significantly increasing the likelihood they will drop out of high school and earn an average salary of $16,753 in Cuyahoga County (American Fact Finder 2014). That breaks down to working 40 hours a week, for 52 weeks without a break, and earning $8.05 an hour.

Supporting the 60 percent of students assessed would change the lives of more than 1,300 children.

Our Biggest Challenge is our Biggest Opportunity

I have had the honor of seeing how dedicated staff and tutors do it in our community’s schools and after-school programs. They do it by working long days. They hunt down parents who may be working multiple jobs for $8.05 an hour to tell them about their child’s progress. They persevere through roadblocks like knowing a child will go home and not have food to eat. Maybe most importantly, they take the time to show a child that someone cares.

You have the opportunity to be that someone for a student in our community. Visit where you will see various opportunities for you to engage and truly change a child’s life. He or she may not know it at the time, but will remember you and the time you gave. You’ll know that you increased his or her chances of not having to live on an $8.05 hourly wage by helping to develop the most important skill: the ability to read.

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