United Way of Central Kansas supports numerous Community Partners that focus on different aspects of Education. These agencies include Catholic Charities of Southwest Kansas, Child Abuse Prevention Education, Family Crisis Center, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland, Immediate Intervention Programs, and also our childcare providers, Caring Hands Daycare and Great Bend Children's Learning Center.
- Reality U
United Way of Central Kansas also stepped into the education arena by bringing Reality U to 8th graders in schools throughout Barton & Pawnee Counties. With this program, 8th graders were able to glimpse into their futures. Students took a short online test with questions about their GPA, what they hope to be, whether or not they will be married, and if they want to have children. These questions helped the program Reality U determine how much the students would be earning and their life situation at age 26. Reality stikes and it is time to go shopping for the necessities in life. Throughout the day students went to each of 13 booths including car insurance, childcare, utilities, housing, medical, and utilities. At each of these booths, they had decisions to make about how much of their money they spent and what they need. If they went over budget, they had to figure out where they could cut expenses to make sure that they were within their budget. There was also be a “Chance” booth where they rolled the dice and they may have had to replace a hot water heater or have a broken leg that they haven’t budgeted for.
Throughout the day there were also numerous speakers talking to the students about how the choices that they can make now can and will have an impact on their lives at 26. Some of these topics included making a plan, the reality of high school, the cost of delinquency, and hearing from people in the area that are between 26-32 years old about what their lives are really like.
- Literacy Kits
United Way of Central Kansas has organized, prepared, and distributed Literacy Kits to area schools since 2016, averaging nearly 400 kits each year. These kits are designed to help Pre-K students and their families get ready for Kindergarten and spend quality time together before the children head off to school. The kits include worksheets to practice writing their alphabet, flashcards for numbers and letters, and lists recommended by the local Kindergarten teachers to help the students be prepared to enter school. United Way of Central Kansas distributed these to elementary schools in Ellinwood, Hoisington, Larned, & Great Bend.
- Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a great way to introduce children to reading and encourages families to read together. Each month a book is delivered, for free, to residents within a zip code, for all children 0-5 who have enrolled at their local public library. These books include lessons for the parents to teach their children, and are geared to the child’s age and gender. Individual families cannot sign up for this program, it must be ran through a community organization to ensure that children, no matter the income level of their families, has access to books.
Studies of the Imagination Library show a positive and significant impact in regards to childhood early language and math development, regardless of demographic or socioeconomic factors. By increasing a child’s access to early literacy materials, the child is more prepared for Kindergarten. Kindergarten readiness is linked to future academic achievement and success later in life, which can impact the community in terms of better test scores throughout schooling, lower high school drop-out rates, and lower unemployment rates. The Imagination Library also has been shown to encourage parents to read to their children, increasing bonding time and laying the groundwork for high quality child-parent interactions and increasing the consistent involvement of the parents in the child’s learning and development, which again increases future success for the child throughout school and life success.
United Way of Central Kansas saw the importance of this program over 10 years ago. Introducing it in Larned in 2011, then to Ellinwood in 2012, and expanded to Great Bend, Hoisington, and Otis in 2017. In 2019, UWCK began providing this program to all Zip Codes in Pawnee County.
If you see the importance of early childhood literacy, and would like to make a difference in the life of a child in Central Kansas, you can make a donation to United Way of Central Kansas to help us support this program. With a donation of just $30 a year, you will be making an impact. All you have to do is send a donation to UWCK and note that you would like to support Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.