For thousands of students across the Quad Cities, the pandemic disrupted their lives more than any other single event in their lifetime. For the last two years, they’ve grappled with stress and uncertainty, learning disruptions, social isolation and more. And it’s no surprise that children are struggling.
We are happy to report that in the last three months, United Way-funded programs, partnerships and our volunteers helped nearly 25,000 of our neighbors. And, that includes support for students to get back on track in school and on the path to succeed in education and life.
It’s not just about academics. There’s growing evidence pointing to the powerful positive effect mentors have on young people in a variety of personal, academic and professional situations. Ultimately, mentoring connects a young person to personal growth and development, and social and economic opportunity.
Meet Stephanie & Amy.
Stephanie and Amy were paired up through Big Brothers Big Sisters, one of United Way’s funded partners, eight and a half years ago. Since then, they’ve developed a close bond and inspiring story that we couldn’t wait to share with you this Thanksgiving week.
It started when Stephanie was in just third-grade. Her “big,” Amy, would visit her in school to mentor her. Even throughout the pandemic, Amy helped her to thrive in school and has changed Stephanie’s life trajectory for the better.
This past year, it was Stephanie who challenged her mentor, Amy, to soar to new heights. After years of relaxing bonding activities like baking at Amy’s house, Stephanie challenged Amy to participate in something more extreme. It was Stephanie’s 18th birthday wish to rappel along the 11-story, historic Hotel Blackhawk in downtown Davenport as part of BBBS’s fundraiser, “Over the Edge.” After some hesitation, Amy made Stephanie’s 18th birthday wish come true.
One-on-one mentorships like this transform children by helping them realize their full potential. They provide a child with a caring adult who believes in them, allowing them to envision a brighter future and set high goals for themselves. When you ask the “littles,” an overwhelming majority of them agree that their “big” gave them hope, changed their perspective of what they thought possible, influenced them in overcoming adversity or problems with courage, and helped them understand the importance of lifting up those who are less fortunate.
United Way finds, funds and partners with more than 50 of the most effective Quad Cities organizations to advance equity and improve education, income and health outcomes. When their programs work, we find ways to bring their successes to scale. When they stumble, we try to identify the problem and help correct it. Our volunteer-led grant decisions seek to maximize impact, much like a financial manager selects investments to maximize profit.
Big Brothers Big Sisters is just one of our funded nonprofit and grassroots partners. Together, with the support of our donors, we helped create opportunity for nearly 75,000 people in the Quad Cities in the last year. More of our students are on track in school and graduating prepared for success at college or on the job, more local families are financially stable and more neighbors are living healthy lives. (You can read all about it in our 2022 Annual Impact Report.)
This Thanksgiving, we are particularly thankful to our inspiring neighbors like Amy and Stephanie, as well as our generous community of donors, volunteers, corporate partners and friends who invest in solutions that power long-term, life-changing opportunities.
Happy Thanksgiving from your friends at United Way!
Special thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters for their contribution to this story.
Be a part of the investment process
United Way is seeking volunteers to serve on the review panels as part of our coming funding cycle. Learn more and preregister as a Strategic Investment Panel Volunteer.
Read more about your impact
Discover how funds made possible by United Way donors are driving impact in our community. Read our Fall 2022 Quarterly Impact Summary for July through September 2022.