Education is the cornerstone of individual and community success. It is essential to getting and keeping a job with a livable wage and health benefits, and it is fundamental to a community’s economic prosperity: a well-educated workforce attracts world-class jobs.

High School graduation is the single most powerful predictor of whether a young person coming from generations of poverty will break the cycle. Essential skills honed in school – such as critical thinking and effective communication – increase a child’s likelihood of becoming productive adults and active citizens.

But we can’t focus on high school alone. Research shows that quality early childhood education, regular attendance and reading at grade level by the end of third grade play a key role in preparing children for the future. In fact, there are key milestones across the cradle to career continuum that serve as checkpoints to ensure young people stay on track and receive the support they need to reach their full potential. It takes all of us – supportive communities, effective schools, and strong families – working together to get the job done.

Our Strategies

Giving Children a Strong Start


A child’s most critical period of development is birth to the age of five. If we can get it right in the first five years, young people are more likely to graduate from high school, join the workforce, and become productive members of society. Quality early childhood education can have a significant impact on children’s lives, preparing them to learn, grow, and succeed every step of the way, from cradle to career.

Learn more about how United Way is giving children a strong start.

  • Early intervention
  • Quality early learning in inclusive environments
  • Kindergarten readiness

Improving Early Grade Reading Rates

Research shows that students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than proficient readers.  That is because children are learning to read until grade four; after 4th grade, they are reading to learn. Third grade marks a critical point where the emphasis shifts from learning to read to reading to learn.

Learn more about how United Way addresses early grade reading.

Boosting Middle and High School Success

The transition to and from middle school are critical for young people. It’s easy to fall off track, but incredibly difficult to regain lost time. Most students who drop out do so in the early years of high school. United Way of Greater Portland is partnering with schools and the local community to recognize the warning signs and develop effective strategies to keep young people on track.

Learn more about how United Way is working with community partners to improve middle and high school success.

  • Early Warning Response System (EWRS)
  • High quality out-of-school time experiences
  • Mentoring Programs