Wells Fargo became the most recent local business to join a growing list of those who support the collective impact efforts of United Way of the Lowcountry to reduce dropout rates in Beaufort and Jasper County high schools by 50 percent in 2022.
“This is a wonderful boost,” Tina Gentry, CEO of United Way of the Lowcountry said of the Wells Fargo gift. “We are gathering businesses, nonprofit partners, governments, institutions and the public around a common agenda to create a collective impact. The challenge of keeping our young people engaged through their on-time graduation from high school requires all of us to work together.”
OC Welch Ford Lincoln, Bi-Lo Stores, and the Hilton Head Rotary Club have also made recent grants to fund the innovative effort. United Way provides the backbone support that enables organizations of all types to mobilize their various areas of expertise around a common goal and achieve success.
Susan Bankson, community affairs officer with Wells Fargo, believes in the strategy. “Every child deserves a quality education so we are proud to support the United Way and your commitment to the community,” she told Lowcountry CEO Gentry. “At Wells Fargo, we believe that we’re responsible for being leaders to promote the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life for everyone in our communities. If they prosper, so do we.”
The first step in achieving on-time high school graduation is to ensure that students are reading on grade level by the time they enter fourth grade. Research shows that in the first few years of school, children are learning to read; after fourth grade, though, they read to learn.
“Without strong reading skills, students are more likely to fall behind, disengage and drop out. Improved reading skills help students experience success in school. The Wells Fargo grant will be used to support the Early Grade Reading initiative,” Gentry said.
The Early Grade Reading initiative puts volunteer tutors in eight area elementary schools to boost the reading skills of students. During the 2012/2013 school year approximately 200 volunteer tutors are helping hundreds of kindergarten through third grade students learn to read so they can later read to learn.
“It’s all part of a coordinated effort to tackle today’s problems and reduce tomorrow’s struggles, with an emphasis on improving education, health and financial stability. United Way of the Lowcountry continues to provide support for local families and individuals needing help with basic needs. We will never stop doing that good work,” Gentry said.
For more information or to volunteer as a reading tutor, call United Way of the Lowcountry at 843-982-3040.