Childhood and Youth Success in Education

A strong education is the foundation for a better future.

At United Way of Greater Stark County, we know that when a child succeeds in school, we all win. Children who are prepared to enter school and receive high-quality early education are more likely to graduate from high school, attend college, earn a higher income, and ultimately, provide a better future for their families. Our educational priorities focus on childhood success (ages 0-8) and youth success (ages 9-21). Join the fight and help us to ensure in a brighter future for generations to come.

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We envision a community where all children enter school ready and are successful in primary school, and where our youth gain the knowledge, skills, and credentials to obtain family-sustaining employment.


Many Stark and Carroll County residents
face ongoing educational challenges

34% of Stark County third-graders are overweight or obese
The infant Mortality Rate – the nuber of infants who died within the first year of life per 1,000 births – a higher rate than the statewide average of 6.9 and the national average of 5.96
3.0 Infant Mortality Disparity Ratio – black infants die at three times the rate of white infants, a 6.7 IMR for white infants compared to 20.2 MR for black infants
3% of children brought into custody sighted parental drug use as a factor with heroine and opiates being the most frequent at 17 percent


Many Stark and Carroll County residents
face ongoing educational challenges


In 2020, only 57.7% of Stark County children were ready for kindergarten. Research shows that the strongest predictors of later achievement in school are entry-level math, reading and attention skill. Through high-quality preschool experiences, we can increase the number of children prepared to enter kindergarten and succeed in school. (Source: Stark County Partnership Data Dashboard: Key Metrics & Strategies – Stark County 3 Year Trend Data. April 12, 2021)

How we invest in solutions

United Way of Greater Stark County invests in SPARK, a program where children receive high-quality preschool experiences to improve school readiness. Evaluations show that students enrolled in the program significantly outperform their non-SPARK peers in the same classrooms. More than 22% of Spark students increased their language and literacy skills and more than 23% increase their math skills. (Source: Early Childhood Resource Center)

why it matters

Childhood success

In the early years, parents and caregivers are their children’s first teachers. Once children enter school, those with engaged parents are more likely to earn good grades, finish high school, and exhibit fewer behavior problems. Yet some parents and caregivers may need assistance and support to effectively serve these roles. Therefore, a variety of parent/caregiver programs, tools, and resources have been developed to address this need.

School Readiness

Children who enter school with early skills are more likely to experience later academic success and life success. The essential domains of school readiness include reading and language development, basic knowledge of math and science, an interest in learning, physical well-being, and emotional and social development.

Reading Proficiency

Reading on grade level at the end of 3rd grade is critical for students. For many children, literacy supports are an important component to help ensure they reach reading proficiency on time. It is especially important as children progress from the primary grades (K-3 or approximately 5-9 years old) where the focus is on learning to read, and 4th grade and beyond, where the focus is on reading to learn. Without effective reading, writing, listening, speaking, and comprehension skills, students will be at-risk for long-term school success.


Potential employers also report difficulty finding qualified applicants to fill entry-level positions. Ensuring that youth earn the necessary education (higher-education or industry-recognized credential), training, and skills necessary for success in the workplace can help prevent disengagement and also re-connect those who have already disengaged.

Complete Secondary School

Students who drop out and do not graduate from high school/secondary school are more likely to be unemployed, live in poverty, and be incarcerated. They are also more likely to rely on public benefits and to earn significantly less income over their lifetime.

Attain Employment

A critical step to being able to support oneself and a family is gaining stable employment. For youth, finding a job can be a daunting challenge. They must determine what careers are available, what their interests are, and what skills they have or need to develop. This is especially true for disconnected youth who are neither working or in school and may have critical gaps in their education and/or lack job relevant skills.


How We Measure Our Results
United Way invests $1.03 million in 14 educational programs that are key to long-term student success for Stark and Carroll County residents. To reach our goals, we look for multiple outcomes.

Childhood success outcomes

  • Developmental milestones: Percent of children (0-5) served who achieve developmental milestones
  • Kindergarten readiness: Percent of children served who are proficient on school readiness assessments when they enter kindergarten
  • Reading level: Percent of children (K-3) served reading at grade level
  • Attendance: Percent of children (K-3) served who maintain satisfactory or improve school attendance

youth success outcomes

  • Graduation: Percent of youth served who graduate high school on time
  • Post-secondary employment: Percent of youth served who gain post-secondary employment, further education, or credentials
  • Employment: Number of youth (ages 15-24) served who gain employment
  • Grades: Percent of middle school, high school youth served who earn passing grades in core subject areas
  • Attendance: Percent of elementary/middle/high school youth served who maintain satisfactory or improve school attendance
  • Soft skills: Percent of middle/high school youth served who develop soft skills
  • Enter high school: Percent of youth who transition from middle to high school on time
Through United Way’s collaborations and funded partner programs, we are helping ensure a brighter future for generations to come
Community Investments List

Early Childhood Education Alliance


One of the funded partner programs United Way supports through the education initiative is The Early Childhood Education Alliance SPARK. This is a kindergarten readiness program for children ages three to five in Alliance, Ohio. This free, in-home program helps kids in the Alliance community enter school ready to learn and grow.
Learn more