Inspire, encourage and influence our youth

Kendra WheelerIf you attended our Annual Meeting, you remember elementary school students from Franklin D. Roosevelt wearing caps and gowns being escorted by United Way volunteers across the stage. It symbolized our commitment to help our kids graduate from high school.

CMSD StudentsIt led to a dismaying reaction from a local man who wrote in a Plain Dealer letter to the editor “United Way should not have had kids in caps and gowns because, at their young age, they haven’t accomplished anything.”

This gentleman completely missed the point. At United Way, we’ve made it our priority to help our community’s youth succeed in school. It’s your job too; our entire community should strive to inspire, encourage and influence, not only our youth, but people of any age, sex, or race to be the best person they can be.

For this exact reason, I was honored when asked to speak at FDR’s career day. It was a chance for me to stand before young and impressionable African-American students and inspire, encourage and influence them to complete high school and pursue their wildest dreams.

This week is national volunteer week and United Way Young Leaders, myself included, tutored students at the King Kennedy Boys and Girls Club. I had the opportunity to help Kalise, a first grader, with her homework. She’s an excellent speller, she barely needs help with reading and she’s well on her way in math. All are accomplishments she’s achieved at a young age – accomplishments worth celebrating.

Perhaps the author of this letter was right; the students haven’t accomplished all of their academic, personal and professional goals YET. But it’s mine, yours and our entire community’s responsibility to ensure our kids have the chance, the exposure and any assistance they could possibly need to make it across the graduation stage.

It’s national volunteer week, what are you doing to help our youth and neighbors?


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