The challenges facing our community are increasingly complex and require evidence-based solutions to provide real, long-lasting change. United Way of Story County is a strategic leader in building county-wide partnerships. The relationships we have with partner agencies, businesses, community members and experts outside of the area means United Way of Story County is in a unique position to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services. This calls for a focus in three key areas: education, income and health

EDUCATION: How United Way of Story County Helps

United Way of Story County knows that a strong education is paramount for a great quality of life. By investing in this issue area, kids have the early advantages needed for success once they reach school, school-aged youth have resources to help them stay on track or catch up and adults across the county have support and the prevention strategies to assist them in succeeding. For the 2013-2014 school year, United Way of Story County funded a pilot project to replicate the Minnesota Reading Corps successful tutoring program to help increase the number of students who are reading at grade level. This program, called the Iowa Reading Corps, utilizes daily instruction and exercises on an individual basis and was implemented at three schools in Story County: Ames (Sawyer), Ballard East and Nevada. We were thrilled to expand the program in Story County for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years to include Ballard West, Collins-Maxwell, Colo-Nesco and Gilbert as well. Watch the 2013 LIVE UNITED Campaign video on education to learn more.
2015-2016 Iowa Reading Corps members, back row, from left: Lisa Hudson (Ballard East), Gretchen Steele (Colo-Nesco), Kinzy Mohrmann (Nevada: Central), Suzanne Sontag (Ames: Edwards & Fellows), Emma Caster (Ames: Sawyer).
Front row, from left: Elaine Mohr (Collins/Maxwell), Katie Kanauss (Ballard West), Kyle Siefert (Ames: Mitchell)

Summer Learning Opportunities

We know research spanning 100 years shows that students lose ground over the summer months. And students from families with low incomes lose, on average, two months or more in reading. For many of these students, they are already behind when they first come to school and even if they can catch up during the school year, the lack of learning opportunities in the summer makes that gap even wider. What is most alarming is that by the end of 5th grade, these children are nearly three grade equivalents behind more affluent peers in reading. 
We all recognize this isn’t acceptable, and United Way of Story County is helping find solutions. Visit the Summer Learning page to learn more about the summer programs in Ames and Nevada and how you can help. 

Third Grade Reading Levels Matter!

A recent report issued by the Annie E. Casey Foundation details the importance of being on track at third grade:
"Reading proficiently by the end of third grade (as measured by National Association of Educational Progress at the beginning of fourth grade) can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development. Up until the end of third grade, most children are learning to read. Beginning in fourth grade, however, they are reading to learn, using their skills to gain more information in subjects such as math and science, to solve problems, to think critically about what they are learning, and to act upon and share that knowledge in the world around them. Up to half of the printed fourth-grade curriculum is incomprehensible to students who read below that grade level, according to the Children’s Reading Foundation. And three quarters of students who are poor readers in third grade will remain poor readers in high school, according to researchers at Yale University.” (page 9)
You can read the full report here: Why Reading at the End of Third Grade Matters
For a real-time example on what this looks like for kids, watch these videos produced by the Iowa Association of School Boards:
So many kids who aren’t reading proficiently do not have an advocate. They have no voice. But, they do have the support of those partnering with United Way of Story County.
The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the 140+ communities (Story County included) working with the Campaign are dedicated to narrowing the gap between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers. This video shows why that gap occurs and how we can close it.

Partners in education: Ames Reads, The Arc of Story County, ACPC, Assault Care Center (ACCESS), Boy Scouts of America, Mid-Iowa Council, Boys & Girls Club of Story County, Camp Fire USA Heart of Iowa, Center for Creative Justice (CCJ), Central Iowa Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), ChildServe, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, Heartland Senior Services (HSS), Lutheran Services in Iowa, Mid-Iowa Community Action, Inc., NAMI Central Iowa (National Alliance on Mental Illness), Raising Readers in Story County, Story Time Child Care Center, University Community Childcare (UCC), Volunteer Center of Story County, Youth & Shelter Services, Inc. (YSS), YWCA Ames – ISU