“Kids in our communities who grow up in single parent homes and in neighborhoods plagued with violent crime like I did can face daunting odds to graduate high school or college, let alone become CEOs. It takes support and resources paired with hard work and determination to find a path forward. It requires a united effort by a community of caring individuals and organizations to change their trajectory. I fully realize I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of the very organization I now lead.
As kids head back to school this month, there’s relief from parents and caregivers, knowing their students will have a safe place to be—somewhere they will learn, be fed, and cared for. With that relief, there can also be anxiety around paying for back-to-school supplies and clothing and keeping food on the table. Many families also worry about what happens when the bell rings: how will their students get home if bussing isn’t available, get help studying if caregivers are working the late shift, have a nutritious meal to help nourish their growing bodies, and stay safe and out of trouble?
Studies have shown the hours of 2-6PM are when kids are most at risk—the time they are out of school, and caregivers might not be around. Afterschool programs give kids a secure and fun place to be, while also providing structured academic support and developing social skills to help nurture productive and engaged citizens. Growing up, I was fortunate to have the benefit of many such programs and organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs, which provided structure and a network for me to lean on. To this day, the organization holds a very special place in my heart. It was a place where I had opportunities to learn and play and just be a kid. These may seem like basic needs to you, but they were truly a luxury to me just as they are today to those growing up in similar circumstances. Being connected to a range of community supports funded by United Way, opened doors for me to dream BIG. It was a transformational experience.
United Way of Greater Kansas City is proud to invest in and partner with community organizations that support 40,000 students each year with quality out-of-school programming—Impact 100 partners like YMCA, El Centro, Mattie Rhodes Center and Operation Breakthrough. Another 1,700 youth are supported with early childhood education through our partners at EarlystART, Growing Futures Early Education Center and Sparkwheel.
At United Way, we’re galvanizing our community into action—creating a movement of change agents, who we call Waymakers™, who are building a future where every student from every part of our region has access to opportunities to thrive.
If your company supports a United Way campaign, we encourage you to pledge. If not, you can give online anytime, volunteer or advocate: www.unitedwaygkc.org. You might just be paving the way for a future CEO like me.
There are a million ways to make a difference. What’s yours?”
– Chris Rosson, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Kansas City