Members of United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) Women United affinity group are on a mission. Each member is committed to not only support UWCA with an annual donation of $1,000 or more, but also to “inspire, educate and motivate women to become positive change-agents within our community through philanthropy, leadership and volunteerism.” In addition, members have the opportunity to network with other local leaders and participate in educational sessions concerning key issues impacting Central Alabama.
One such event occurred on August 31st. This was the first in-person Women United Wednesday event since the pandemic; and it kicked off a three-part series titled “State of Our Kids.” The inaugural topic focused on COVID-related learning loss and featured a panel of speakers from Central Alabama’s education sector, all of whom see the issues firsthand and are working together to create solutions.
Dr. Melissa Shields, Coordinator, Office of School Improvement at the Alabama Department of Education, facilitated a discussion with the following panelists:
- Corinn O’Brien – Vice President of Policy, A+ Education Partnership
- Mitchie Neel – Executive Director, Blount County Education Foundation
- Dr. Ann McGough, Principal Academic Coach, Birmingham City Schools
- Dr. Connie Hill, President and CEO, Girls Inc. of Central Alabama
- Ryan Parker, Vice President of Bold Goals, Community Impact, United Way of Central Alabama
Dr. Shields prefaced the discussion by saying that because of the pandemic, “the entire world was given a reset button” and that “we know that future generations are going to look back and ask us how we used this time to be fearless and choose to not do things just because that’s how they’ve always been done.”
Panelists discussed everything from gaps in internet connectivity in rural counties to the role of mental health in academic success, leading to a robust exchange about needs and how groups are working together to address them. Many schools and United Way partner agencies had to quickly innovate new ways of providing services. For example, Girls Inc. of Central Alabama, a UWCA partner agency, shifted from its traditional after-school program to being open during school hours while regular schools were closed to provide a safe space for students to connect to their virtual learning classes while parents went to work. More than 80 girls were benefited by this quick-thinking program.
Another great example of the community working together to fill an educational gap has been the initiative between Birmingham City Schools (BCS) and UWCA to launch a “high-dosage” tutoring program, which began in January 2022. UWCA worked with local colleges to recruit tutors that BCS then matched with students in the school system to combat COVID-related learning loss.
The next part in the series is November 9th, focusing specifically on mental health. Visit Women United – United Way of Central Alabama (uwca.org) to learn how to join Women United and be a part of this discussion and a wonderful leadership group dedicated to helping move Central Alabama forward.