United Way of Steele County Fights...

United Way of Steele County Fights for the Financial Stability, Health and Education of Every Person in our Community

Education is one of the three pillars of work that the United Way focuses on. It is one of the fundamentals of a healthy community and is interconnected with the other two pillars much like a three legged stool. If one of the legs is removed the entire structure falls. While most of us know that education is important it’s helpful to know why, and then what we are doing about it.

Mastery of reading for comprehension and learning, math and sciences, vocational skills, ability to communicate and reason, and technological proficiency are minimum expectations for employment eligible people in our society. These subjects are first taught in school but they are also learned and improved by the experiences children have and the other adults in their lives. Not all children have the same resources at home to learn life skills or get connected to opportunities. Without development of these mandatory skills youth are at risk of perpetuating any financial instability they may be experiencing in their families. This can be the beginning of what is called generational poverty.

United Way fights for the education of all children in our community by funding, creating, and supporting a broad array of educational, mentoring, supportive, and connecting programs for children and youth. Here is what we are doing to ensure the success of youth in our community.

UWSC fights for preschool learning. Dolly Parton Imagination Library ensures children are ready to read when they get to kindergarten by mailing an age specific book each month to children from birth to age 5, if they are registered. Currently, 1,154 Steele County children are enrolled and 1,093 children have graduated by turning 5.

We ensure children of working parents have access to preschool by supporting Preschool Transportation through SMART Transit and giving free rides to children of low income families so all can have access to the foundational benefit of preschool.

UWSC fights for learning and development in elementary school. Blooming Prairie Youth Club provides tutoring and homework support; illness is a barrier to learning and some people cannot afford medical costs so Children’s Remedial Fund removes that encumbrance to education; Crisis Resource Center Violence Prevention Education teaches hands are not for hitting, words are not for hurting and bullying or violence in any circumstance is wrong. It’s hard to learn if your teeth hurt so Let’s Smile Oral Health Education teaches the lifelong habits needed to preserve health, and promote education. Big Brothers Big Sisters defends children’s potential by matching children facing adversity with mentors.

UWSC fights for high school learning. Of course Big Brothers Big Sisters and Blooming Prairie Youth Club both continue to help children through high school. At least 25% of graduating students have no plan to attend college or begin a career so along with the Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Development Inc., and with support from the Owatonna School District, United Way of Steele County founded

Steele Co Works — Job Readiness program. This program provides one-on-one career counseling, skills assessment, opportunity matching, and support for those who have no plan and few resources to do it on their own.

In 2018, 2,887 children received these programs – 1,951 in Owatonna alone. None of them are funded through typical school pathways, no government funding or levies cover costs. Many of them would not be offered if United Way funding was not available.

As long as United Way of Steele County is here we will fight for and defend the right to education for all our children. We will look out for the greater good, fight tirelessly, and not quit until everyone has access to the systems and tools which will help them be successful.

Kim Schaufenbuel is the Executive Director for United Way of Steele County. Contact United Way at 507-455-1180 or via email at kschaufenbuel@unitedwaysteelecounty.org. Our website is www.unitedwaysteelecounty.org