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United Way for Southeastern Michigan Lights the Way to Improve Metro Detroit Communities
|Valerie West, United Way|
Many people have seen the tall sculpture at the base of Woodward and Jefferson but have no clue what it represents. No, it’s not a weird satellite antenna. It’s actually the United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s torch, and you can see it being lit for the first time in years this Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 a.m.
We’re lighting it to celebrate the launch of our Making Greater Detroit Greater campaign. We believe that we can make metro Detroit one of the top places in the country to live and work by 2030.
Why 2030, and how do we do that?
Children born this year will become the high school graduating class of 2030. We can ensure that this group becomes the most college- and career-ready class in the nation by accelerating and integrating community efforts focused on their success, while meeting the needs of their families. The success of these children undoubtedly has a positive effect on the community.
Detroit was once dubbed a “dropout factory.” Dropouts cost hundreds of millions of dollars in social welfare programs, future health care costs and incarceration fees.
But we can change this.
United Way’s Work
• Education: Preparing children for success by making sure they are ready to learn by age five. We want those students to graduate high school prepared to enter college or the workforce.
• Basic Needs: Ensuring that all kids have access to nutritious meals every single day.
• Financial Stability: Creating pathways for families to springboard out of the “safety net.”
Our work in education is making an impact—both locally and nationally. General Motors Co. invested $27.1 million in our Turnaround Schools. These traditionally low-performing schools were graduating less than 60 percent of their students. We are aiming to increase graduation rates to 80 percent, and we’ve already seen stellar improvement. In just one year, chronic absences at the first network of schools in Detroit dropped 25 percent, dramatically reducing a decades-long trend.
Nationally, we are one of only 16 other organizations awarded a Social Innovation Fund grant by the White House for our education work.
We aren’t doing this work alone. Partners, donors, advocates and volunteers all contribute to this success. Ford Motor Co. donated mobile food pantries to the most vulnerable populations who have no way to get the food they need. This summer, local businesses and volunteers helped ensure that our region’s kids were informed about free lunches available to them at food sites.
Our Financial Stability team is working with businesses to help create job training programs that will help people earn family-sustaining wages.
Together, United Way believes that we can be the social change agent that harnesses the collective power of people and institutions to strengthen community conditions in making metro Detroit a top place to live and work.
You can be a part of this amazing transformation. Please join us this Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 a.m. in Hart Plaza to learn more about our work and how you can be a part of it. And if you can’t attend, sign up for email updates on www.liveunitedsem.org, and look for an exciting contest announcement.
Please click the RSVP for an invite to the torch lighting.
United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s main office is located on Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. Have you ever volunteered for United Way? What was your experience like?