North Texas United Way Works To Get Kids Ready For The Classroom

One in five kids in Texas won't graduate from high school.

One non-profit organization in Texas is working overtime to change that statistic.

The North Texas Area United Way teams up with six different organizations to help get kids ready to head to class. 

Many people think only kids from low-income families take part in the education program.  However, Gregory Shannon, President and CEO of The North Texas United Way said they get kids from every socioeconomic level.  He said their goal is to help kids be ready to walk into the classroom confident, positive, and ready to learn.

Education if one of the three building blocks at United Way.  There are different programs a child can take part in.  They have an early childhood program for kids who haven't started school and an after school program for kids already in the classroom.

For the early childhood program, Shannon said their goal is to have kids at their reading level by the time they are in the third grade.

"If we can get them to reading level by the third grade then we've succeeded.  We know that our chances are really high that these children will succeed in school," Shannon said.

United Way works to help prepare the kids for kindergarten.  It's to make sure they are more ready to learn, rather than being nervous, or overwhelmed by all the kids in the classroom.

Once they go through the program, Shannon said they feel they have a good head start.  He explained they will have the basics under their belt and they can move forward in their education.  They will know the alphabet and might even be putting letters together to form words.

The other program they have is the after school program.  This is for kids who are already in school.  Shannon said a lot of kids struggle to get their homework done.  Since society has changed, both parents are usually working.  This makes it difficult to pick up their kids from school, prepare dinner, do house chores, get their kids to do their homework, etc.  This is why the after school program is so beneficial.

"A lot of them work with having homework centers so kids get their homework done before they get home," Shannon said.

Shannon said homework isn't the only thing they work on with the students.  They also help them with acquiring a positive attitude towards education. 

The third part of the program is for students in high school who are struggling.  Shannon said some of them didn't have the opportunity when they were younger, so they aren't where they should be.

"It begins to manifest itself into poor behavior in school and poor behavior at home," Shannon said.

He said this is why they have a couple of programs to work with those students to help them understand where they are at.  They get one on one tutoring so they can learn quick enough to catch up and be career ready when they graduate from high school.

They also offer a summer program for kids in school to make sure they retain the information from the previous year.

Shannon said, "We also learned if you're not doing something over and over again during the summer, they begin to lose it.  So, they keep exercising the brain in different areas that are important so when they go back to school in the fall they haven't lost everything."

However, even if United Way accomplishes their goal is, students can still have problems later in their education.  Shannon said there are different areas kids struggle with.  One if them is when they start school.

He explained, "Today we've gotten so protective of our kids that we kids of isolate them a little bit.  So, when the kids are all of a sudden thrown into a classroom with 29 other kids, they don't know how to react."

Another struggle is getting them ready to read, but getting them into the program helps with that issue.  

United Way works with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wichita Falls, Child Care Inc., Communities in Schools, Helen Farabee Centers, Iowa Park RAC, and the YMCA of Wichita Falls.  All six of them have hired staff that is certified to work with the kids.

"They work with them on a daily basis so they know them very well.  They are educated themselves and they know what to look for," Shannon said.

They can tell what areas a kid is struggling with or what areas they are accelerating in to make sure they are focusing on the right areas.

Shannon said, "Kids are different.  They learn differently and at different speeds and at different levels."

The North Texas United Way serves 11 counties across Texoma.

Shannon said, "What allows them to do this is from the funding from the community.  They are free to be able to work with kids one on one and that's what we really need for today's time."

Shannon said the program costs about $250,000 a year.  This is why they need the communities help to keep such a great program going.  One of the largest fundraising events for the program is "Fashion Night Out."  It's September 25th at The Kemp at The Forum.  Tickets are available at Tangles Salon and participating boutiques.

Newschannel 6 is a proud sponsor of that event and Newschannel 6 Anchor Ashley Fitzwarter will be there emceeing the event.

It's going to be a lot of fun, so head on out for a great cause.

, Newschannel 6