United Way volunteers distribute books and read to students at Clinton Elementary School

On multiple occasions every year, United Way mobilizes volunteers from Lincoln’s top workplaces to read and distribute books to students at local elementary schools. One such occasion, Read Across America, is a national reading event that takes place each year on or around March 2. United Way has long supported this event at Campbell and McPhee elementary schools. 

Both the distribution of books and the reading aloud are important aspects of the event. Reading aloud is known to improve language development and boost literacy skills, while books at home propel the child forward academically and has been shown to break the link between poverty and poor academic outcomes. Some of the kids tell volunteers it is the first book they get to call their own.

Campbell and McPhee elementary schools are supported through United Way’s ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. initiative which ensures that children and their families have the opportunity to succeed in school and life regardless of their circumstances. This year, ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. is expanding to include Clinton Elementary School. On March 2, in celebration of Read Across America, this will be the first time United Way volunteers are entering Clinton Elementary School. 

“Clinton Elementary is fortunate to have the opportunity to be included in United Way’s ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. initiative. This partnership will benefit our scholars and provide additional opportunities for learning. We appreciate being included in this impactful initiative,” says Angee Luedtke Clinton principal.

In addition to volunteering that takes place regularly throughout the year, the schools receive funding from ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. that makes it possible to provide additional supports to students and their families, such as family literacy, mental health supports, and after school programs to name a few. Specifically at Clinton, this will provide for the school community coordinator at their Community Learning Center, whose lead agency is CEDARS, as well as the ability to expand mental health support to students. 

"Our Community Learning Centers are successful because of partnerships like the one with United Way. With both the financial support, as well as connecting caring volunteers to our schools the students, families and neighborhood thrive,” says Nola Derby-Bennett, director of Lincoln Community Learning Centers.

ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. is a joint undertaking by United Way’s Women United and United Way’s Emerging Leaders United, two groups of donors who pledge their support to this specific cause. 

“My fellow Women United and Emerging Leaders United members are proud to be expanding ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. to include Clinton Elementary School and support more students,“ says Michelle St.Clair, of Perspective Planning Partners and past president of Women United. “When you hear about the needs that children in our community are facing, especially in the area of mental health, how can you not raise your hand and say, ‘I want to help be the answer to that!’”

United Way hopes to gather enough support for ENGAGE.EMPOWER.GRADUATE. over the next several years to expand to a fourth school in the future. 

About United Way of Lincoln and Lancaster County
Celebrating 100 years of being there, United Way brings the entire community together to create long-term lasting change. By mobilizing the caring power of the Lincoln and Lancaster County community, United Way improves the lives of every resident. Ultimately, we envision a community where all residents have the opportunity to thrive. 

About Lincoln Community Learning Centers
Lincoln Community Learning Centers provide a fun, educational delivery system that uses neighborhood schools as the central gathering place for students, families and neighborhoods. The CLC initiative supports 29 schools in the development and implementation of high quality extended learning opportunities, weekend and summer enrichment programs and other supportive services for children, youth, families, and neighborhood residents.

Published: March 2, 2023, Updated: March 2, 2023