At United Way of Salt Lake, there are few things that scare us more than kids not reaching their full potential because of barriers holding them back.

We believe that every child, no matter their race or the neighborhood they live in, deserves the same shot to succeed in school and in life. That’s why we work with our partners, donors, volunteers, and advocates to help every child, every step of the way.

While we have accomplished a lot, there’s still so much to do. Here are some of those scary statistics kids in our community are up against and what we are doing to change them.

Scary Statistic 1: Only 35% of low-income kindergarteners are ready to learn to read when they start school.

scary stats kindergarten costumeThis Utah State Board of Education stat is not okay. Especially when you compare it to the 75% of non-low-income kindergarteners who are prepared to learn to read at the start of the year.

Over the years, we have put a lot of resources toward our goal of ensuring that every child is ready to learn when they start kindergarten. And it continues to be a major priority for us, because when kids are kindergarten-ready, they are primed for a lifetime of learning.

We’re working to prepare more kids for kindergarten by advocating at the Capitol to improve access to high-quality preschool and kindergarten and provide more funding to these types of programs. To date, we have secured more than $9 million for early education initiatives through our advocacy efforts.

But we aren’t just working with the legislature to get more kids on track by kindergarten. Our grassroots leadership efforts in the communities we partner with are also making a big difference. We engage with parents directly to help them evaluate their kids’ development in their early years before kindergarten.

Scary Statistic 2: One in three Utah high school graduates don’t start college within five years of graduating, according to Utah System of Higher Education.

Scary Stat on graduationWe aim to make sure that kids have all the resources they need to stay focused in school throughout their education careers.

But even if kids make it across the stage on graduation day, that doesn’t mean the barriers they face to access post-secondary education or career training are immediately eliminated. That is why we’ve created partnerships to make the transition to college or a career more smooth for high school seniors.

Along with summer credit recovery to make sure students can graduate on time, we work with high school administrators to offer students FAFSA completion support so kids can get the funding they qualify for to attend college.

But those cost barriers don’t just end after the college application process. Many students face difficulty to continue paying for college while seeking to finish their degrees.

To get more students to graduate both technical school and traditional college, we work to tackle the barriers that stand in the way. This year, United Way of Salt Lake will launch a pilot program where a 211 specialist will be at the University of Utah one afternoon a week. Their role will be to connect students with providers that can supply the resources they need, such as rent assistance, class materials, and food pantries.

Scary Statistic 3: 23% of students in our region changed schools before the end of the school year, based on USBE data.

scary stats mobility

Student mobility is a huge barrier to kids getting the most out of their education. And United Way has several ways it’s trying to help students and their families ease through such transitions in their lives.

UWSL’s financial stability network, which is made up of business leaders, government officials, and other experts, is focusing on how to decrease the negative effects students experience due to an unplanned move related to housing or job instability. They are doing this by focusing on finding ways to increase transition support at new schools and increase the knowledge that renters have about their housing rights.

Also, one of the main resources Utah 211 connects callers to is housing and employment assistance. 211, a state-wide resource center powered by the United Ways of Utah, connects callers to the human resources they need to thrive.

Thanks to some of these efforts, there was a 12% decrease in mobility among refugee students in our partner schools in South Salt Lake from 2014 to 2017, according to Granite School District data.

Learn more about what United Way of Salt Lake is up against and how we’re working to ensure every student has the opportunity to succeed by visiting