United Way Announces Fifth Year of Successful Summer Learning Program

Over 2,000 K-3 students expected to benefit from literacy programs proven to avoid summer learning loss and reduce achievement gap

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley is awarding $229,000 to serve over 2,000 elementary school-age children in 22 program sites in Greater Boston and Merrimack Valley through its nationally-recognized Summer Learning Collaborative. The 2014 locations will serve students from the communities of Lynn, Lawrence, Lowell, Salem, Winthrop, Peabody, Revere, Cambridge, Somerville and Boston neighborhoods of Dorchester, East Boston, Allston Brighton, Chinatown and Roxbury.

Last year, 89% of K-3 students in the United Way Summer Learning Collaborative avoided learning loss during the summer months, better preparing them for the start of the new school year. Evaluation results also show that participating children showed 2.4 months of growth in literacy skills and that 85% reported enjoying reading more at the end of the summer. Participating organizations gave the program high marks too: 89% of staff stated the Summer Learning Collaborative improved program curriculum and activities. Continue reading

Governor Deval Patrick: “There’s Real Strength in Partnerships”

In March, United Way joined the Patrick Administration and several Community Development Corporations (CDCs) to announce $3 million in  allocations to 38 community organizations across the Commonwealth for a new Community Investment Tax Credit that will encourage new economic opportunities for low- and middle-income households throughout Massachusetts. United Way worked closely with the Massachusetts Association for Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and our State leaders to advocate for and implement the tax credit, and is currently fundraising to help CDCs reach the designated funding levels needed to support their programs and claim the tax credit.

Joe Kriesberg, President and CEO of MACDC, sat down this week with Governor Deval Patrick to talk about the new tax credit.  Check out what the Governor has to say about the importance of investing in CDCs and this win-win opportunity for donors and economic development in the Commonwealth.

The Community Investment Tax Credit offers a 50% state tax credit to individuals and companies who invest in CDCs – a huge savings for a donor, and a significant impact on a CDC’s ability to implement innovative projects that will make both an immediate and lasting impact in our local communities. For more information about making a donation and receiving the Community Investment Tax Credit, contact Susan Dickason at sdickason@supportunitedway.org.


When Number One Is Just Not Good Enough

Today, the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Massachusetts Budget & Policy Center released the annual KIDS COUNT report, which ranked Massachusetts as leading the nation in the overall well-being of children.  The report tracks indicators that paint a picture of how well children are doing in the fifty states and looks at data trends in four areas: 1) economic well being, such as the number of children in poverty; 2) education, such as percentages of students not proficient in reading or math and percent of children not attending preschool;  3) health, such as percentage of children without health insurance and 4) family & community, such as number of children in families where the household head lacks a high school diploma.

“While we are proud that Massachusetts is leading the nation in the well-being of children, we are immediately sobered by the fact that 53% of our children are not reading proficiently by 4th grade and 213,000 children live in poverty,” said Michael K. Durkin, President, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “The latest KIDS COUNT report underscores our commitment to ensure all children receive high-quality early education to prepare them for kindergarten and success later in school, and to ensure all families have safe, secure housing and environments where children will thrive.” Continue reading

The Adventure of a Lifetime!


We’re sending four kids to India for an unbelievable experience–and we want you to take part in their adventure!

“Where is the farthest you’ve traveled?”

Jama Aroni considers the question, then replies: “Down the street.”

Jama, 16, and his three friends from Young Environmental Leaders of Lynn (YELL), have not had many opportunities to get out and see the world.

That’s all about to change. In a big way.

On September 25, they will go on the adventure of their lives when they depart for a week-long trip to India. For them, it’s all still unbelievable. From when their names were announced on May 30 as the winners of the Youth Venture video competition up to now, the reality of the experience before him has yet to settle in.

“We still can’t believe it,” said Jada Macdonald, 17. “It was so surreal.”

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United Way Scholarship Recipients Recognized for Outstanding Community Work

Marian L. Heard Scholarship Program provides students with $10,000 scholarship and e-coach mentor for college success

BOSTON – Miriam Nyan arrived in Lowell in 2007 after growing up surrounded by violence in Liberia (read about her story here). Today, she is studying biology at Worcester State University to become a doctor so she can return to Africa to help drive down the devastating death tolls that result from curable diseases.  Sheila Reyes, of Roxbury, lost three friends to violence in three years. Today, she is a student at Boston College majoring in sociology and thinking about a future in law school.  Jason Martinez, of Lawrence, just finished his second year at Bentley College.  He is the first in his family to go to college and continues to be an active volunteer at the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence.  They are also all participants in United Way’s Marian L. Heard Scholarship Program.

Today, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley officially welcomed 18 new students to the 2014 class of Marian L. Heard Scholars at a luncheon at the Boston College Club in Boston.  These students are honored for being not only excellent students inside the classroom, but for outstanding leadership in the community. Continue reading

Rising Above


Sheila Reyes, MLH Scholar and United Way intern, is on the fast-track to a good life.  It wasn’t always easy, though.

When Sheila Reyes was a high school student in Roxbury she lost three friends to violence in three years. One friend a year–gone. She knows as well as anyone the stakes facing a young person when they’re flanked on all sides by danger. She also knows what it takes to rise above it all. She only has to look to her mother and her sister.

Sheila’s mother moved from Puerto Rico to the U.S. at a young age, all by herself, and lived with her two cousins. The language barrier was steep. She had no parents and virtually no support network. And arthritis was setting in. But she persevered, crafted a life for herself as a cosmetologist, and brought two girls into the world who would build on the example she set.

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Special Teams ace and three-time Pro Bowler Matthew Slater teams up with United Way to tackle childhood obesity in national ad campaign


Across the country, National Football League (NFL) players are teaming up with United Way to engage more NFL fans in improving the health and wellness of young people. This week, Matthew Slater, special teams ace and three time Pro Bowler for the New England Patriots joined a group of local kids from South Shore Stars for a United Way photo shoot as part of a nationwide campaign by United Way and the NFL to increase awareness about childhood obesity and inspire more people to get involved in helping kids get active and healthy.

“I’m just really excited to be out here today on behalf of the NFL, PLAY60 and United Way,” said Slater. “I think it’s so important for our youth to stay active, put the right things in their body, and then they will feel better about themselves. It’s going to be very beneficial for our youth if we can get them to stay active and stay healthy.” Continue reading

Build a child’s brain on the train!

New Brain Building in Progress ad campaign with Mass Early Education & Care and the MBTA highlights the potential of everyday moments to be learning moments

See more photos on Facebook 

Today, United Way joined Patrick Administration officials to turn the MBTA’S Harvard Square Station into a “Brain Building Zone” to promote the power of engaging parent-child interactions in building children’s literacy through everyday routines. Continue reading

In Their Own Words: A Community Baby Shower Story


Sarah Tremblay is an Americorps VISTA for United Way of the Greater Seacoast. She played a pivotal role in organizing the recent Community Baby Shower. This was her experience.

All is calm. I let out a sigh of relief. The event is going smoothly; families are eating at the various tables decorated with unbelievable diaper cakes, guests are attentively listening to Officer Speidel talk about car seat installation, the resource tables are inundated with people, and guests are gawking over the bursting baby basic baskets that each of them will take home.

And aside from all of this, the indicator of success: The Children’s Activities committee (composed of women from a local insurance company who are all super wonderful but who tend to think “worst case scenario”) was content and not so terrified of children escaping the confinement of the activity room. This was going to work.

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