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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Fiscal Year 2015 kicks off with big thanks to allocations volunteers

As United Way officially begins a new Fiscal Year 2015, we took a moment to once again thank our allocations volunteers for their important work that has helped set us on track for another year of changing lives and communities.

At a special event with volunteers and our agency partners, guests enjoyed a hands on experience, connecting with each other, doing interactive exercises to learn more about the innovative work happening across our partners to support children, youth and families in our region.


see more photos in our Facebook album

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Brown Brothers Harriman’s Tim Connelly to lead annual giving effort

BOSTONTim Connelly, Partner at Brown Brothers Harriman, has been named Development Chair of United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley’s annual giving effort that will begin July 1 and run through June 30 of 2015, the organization announced today.  In this volunteer leadership role, Connelly will lead a corps of 20 volunteers from greater Boston’s financial services, health care, legal, retail, higher education and real estate industries to inspire individuals and corporate partners throughout the region to volunteer and donate to help increase school readiness, prevent high school drop out and create more opportunities to lift families out of poverty.

“Tim Connelly shares our commitment to tackle some of the most complex, entrenched issues in our region,” said Michael K. Durkin, President at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “We are incredibly fortunate that he will be leading our efforts over the upcoming fiscal year to offer opportunities for volunteers and donors to take action to help young children get the right start, keep young people engaged in school so they graduate and help families get better jobs and safe, secure housing.” Continue reading