United Way is Lead Partner in White House & U.S. Department of Education Pilot


Robert H. (Bob) Brown, HFUW President/CEO, announces United Way's role as lead agency in a national interfaith pilot to improve children's literacy.

As part of our investment in education, Heart of Florida United Way is serving as the lead agency in an exciting new pilot that’s moving the needle on education at four Orange County public schools

Known as the Interfaith School Turnaround Pilot – or IFSTP, the launch was officially announced last week during a joint press conference with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer who is supporting the pilot through the Cities of Service initiative known as Orlando Cares.

National Pilot
Designed by the White House Committee on Neighborhood and Faith-Based Partnerships, the U.S. Department of Education and others, IFSTP is being implemented at Memorial Middle School, as well as its three feeder elementary schools, Richmond Heights, Palmetto, and Catalina.

United Way, with support from six VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) representatives, has so far recruited more than 100 local faith-based volunteers who are working with students as readers, tutors and mentors. The goal: Improve children’s literacy skills, academic performance and behavior, while providing support to teachers and parents.

Improving Graduation Rates
IFSTP also supports United Way’s broader goal to improve graduation rates – locally and nationally ‒ in part, by focusing on early literacy skills.

“Research shows that for every 50 children who struggle to read in kindergarten, 44 will still have difficulty in third grade,” said Joan Nelson, United Way Vice President of Community Investment. “Without strong reading skills, these students typically fall further and further behind and eventually become four times more likely to drop out of high school.”

Creating Brighter Future
During the press conference, Robert H. (Bob) Brown, United Way President/CEO, urged greater community support of IFSTP. “Providing more books, improving family literacy and volunteering as reading buddies or tutors are all ways we can improve early reading success,” he said. “Through the passionate commitment of volunteers, we can create a brighter future for our students, our schools and community.”

Interfaith Volunteers
To date, the following interfaith-based organizations have committed to provide volunteers for IFSTP:  Congregation Ohev Shalom, Harvest Baptist Church, Haqq Mosque – Knowledge for Living, Koinonia Ministries of Central Florida, Love Covenant World Center, Muslim Women of Orlando, St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Summit Church, Team Brand New and the University of Central Florida (UCF) Muslim Student Association.

To get involved, please contact the United Way Volunteer Resource Center at (407) 835-0900 or e-mail volunteercenter@hfuw.org.

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