OP-ED: Every child deserves access to high-quality education

By Amy Weibley, Communications & Community Impact Director, United Way of Franklin County

During the past year, the students in Franklin County have struggled with disrupted education and stressful situations at school and at home.

The hardships have taken a toll on many, especially on children from communities of color, in under-resourced neighborhoods, or those already facing trauma or disability.

For example, Black students are more than twice as likely to be suspended as white students, even in preschool; high school graduation rates are lower for students of color—81% for Hispanic students, 79% for black students and 74% for indigenous students—compared to 89% for whites; LGBTQA+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness; and special education students have a 21% dropout rate, compared to 7% for all students.

We need to provide extra support to these students—and all those struggling with changed learning environments—as they adapt to an unconventional school year.

One of the best way to help students is to focus on their first few years. United Way of Franklin County continues to fight for quality early learning to help our children become successful students.

Josh, a toddler at UWFC’s Program Partner Peach Tree Child Development Group, is one example of our collective impact.

At Peach Tree, Josh learned to become more social, building relationships and friendships with the other children. He learned to clean up his toys and sit at the table during snack time. Josh and his classmates studied shapes and numbers, learning to count to 10, 20, and even 100.

These seem like simple, small tasks to us but, for children, they are the building blocks for healthy development that leads to school readiness. These are especially significant milestones for children like Josh with special needs.

Peach Tree integrates children with special needs and typically developing children to promote belonging, participation, and engagement of children in inclusive settings. Last year, 95% of children achieved program development goals – a significant impact on our youngest community members.

Services from our Program Partners have been constantly adapting to the changing environments and needs COVID-19 creates. But they have all continued to serve our community. Now, more than ever, they need our help to meet the amplified issues and new challenges presented by the pandemic.

No matter what happens in 2021, our commitment to supporting high-quality education and early learning through local programs remains. Our long-term investment in the community:

  • Provides quality, affordable childcare
  • Helps kids prepare for kindergarten
  • Promotes out-of-school activities
  • Provides supportive adult connections
  • Funds mental health care services
  • Supports food pantries and school supplies
  • Delivers youth activities for healthy living

Help every child in Franklin County get the strong start they deserve and the bright future they’ve been working toward. Give today to the United Way of Franklin County Community Impact Fund at www.uwfcpa.org.

To donate via check, mail your check to United Way of Franklin County, 182 S. Second St., Chambersburg, PA 17201.