Education is the cornerstone for success in work and in life - and it benefits the whole community! Children who receive high-quality early education are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, earn more money and land a high-skill job. By investing in programs that provide quality early education, we’re investing in brighter prospects not just for ourselves or our children, but for generations to come.


Children who begin school behind their peers are 30% more likely to drop out. Dropouts, in turn, are more likely to be unemployed, earn low wages or worse. We intend to change that. United Way’s community BOLD GOALS in Education are sustainable progress toward 100% of eligible students being kindergarten ready and a 100% high school graduation rate.   

  • Ohio ranks 27th in total spending among the 45 states that fund preschool. (Source: Education Commission of the States)

  • 95% of brain development happens by the age of three, yet only 1.3% of Ohio’s budget is dedicated to young children. (Source:

  • 8 in 10 Ohio 4-year-olds are not enrolled in a publicly funded preschool. (Source: Department of Education)

  • 65% of low-income children enrolled in an early childhood education program graduate from high school. (Source:

  • 10% of Stark County residents do not have a high school diploma. The rate increases to nearly 15% in our urban areas. (Source: Center for Public Education) 


To boost students’ achievement, United Way currently invests $1.4M in 22 educational programs that local education experts say are the key to long-term student success.

  • School Readiness

  • Success in School


Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids™ (SPARK) is an early childhood education program funded by United Way that has demonstrated real results in helping kids become kindergarten ready. SPARK kids outperform their non-SPARK peers on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA) to a statistically significant degree. 


Before Lucas began kindergarten, only his mother Nicole was able to interpret much of what he said. Teachers and others had difficulty understanding him. His mother enrolled him in SPARK to prepare for kindergarten. SPARK is one of the many education programs supported by United Way of Greater Stark County.

With help from a SPARK Parent Partner and his preschool teacher, Lucas soon started working regularly with a SPARK speech pathologist. Over late spring and summer, he continually improved, and by the time he started his first day of kindergarten, he no longer needed speech services. In fact, he was having no trouble speaking with clarity.

Besides improving his speech, the SPARK program helped Lucas learn his address, phone number, all the letters in the alphabet, write his full name and read sight words. Now in third grade, Lucas has tested in the top 4 percent of his class. He’s happy to show visitors his many 100 percent tests. His mother credits SPARK for much of his success. 


Behind all of our work, there are people like you who get significantly involved in big and small ways to ensure a better future for their family and their community. Your involvement is our most powerful resource. With you on our team, we can reach our goal of a better future for Greater Stark County. Will you join us?