Grad Nation Community spotlight: Pima County

Based on the belief that solutions to community problems exist within the community, the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona (UWTSA) and a variety of partners are committed to working together to improve outcomes for children and youth in Pima County. Focused on early childhood education and youth development, the UWTSA coordinates initiatives to ensure that young people are able to make a successful transition to adulthood. UWTSA and its community partners use a broad range of strategies to improve the well-being of children in Pima County to make certain they are prepared to learn and succeed in school and life.

The strategies used in Pima County include:

  • Improving quality of early care and educational experiences
  • Promoting early literacy
  • Increasing the quality of out-of-school time programs
  • Supporting parent and teacher education
  • Improving nutrition and oral health education
  • Enhancing community awareness of the importance of quality care and education

“To achieve its goal of ensuring that all youth are Ready by 21: Ready for College, Work and Life, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona works with a wide variety of community partners in two strategic areas: Early Childhood Education and Youth Development,” said Amanda Kucich, senior director of youth development, UWTSA. “We understand that in order to have higher graduation rates, the interventions must start much earlier than high school. Using a cradle to adulthood approach, we are working to ensure that all young children have access to high quality child care and education and we work to sustain those investments through a strong youth development initiative that promotes early elementary literacy and quality improvement in out-of-school time programs. Thus, every young person has access to not only academic supports but opportunities to build skills and competencies that mold them into the leaders we need them to be for their schools, families and communities.”

To help meet the challenges facing young people in Pima County and increase high school graduation rates, UWTSA has mobilized resources to improve the availability, accessibility, quality and affordability of services to families. An early childhood partnership coordinated by UWTSA, the First Focus on Kids (FFK) Coalition, is composed of over 100 community volunteers including early childhood professionals, business leaders, educators, early childhood and literacy experts, youth and family development agencies, state and local government representatives, parents and United Way staff.  In the past 10 years, First Focus on Kids (FFK) has secured over $45 million to improve the well-being and school readiness of Pima County’s most at-risk children.

In 2003, UWTSA established the Youth Development Coalition (YDC), a regional partnership to improve outcomes for youth in Pima County. The vision of UWTSA's youth development initiative is that all youth in Pima County are in safe and supportive environments that promote their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being so that they are ready for college, work and life. Today, YDC has grown to more than 40 members that are focused on improving youth program quality, increasing access to health/nutrition services, improving work readiness, improving youth worker education and enhancing community awareness.

The coalition is comprised of a diverse range of community volunteers including: educators, business leaders, youth development and literacy experts, afterschool providers, family support agencies, state and local government representatives, and parents. The Youth Development Coalition works to achieve the UWTSA’s goals through targeted community investments and collaborative efforts to create measureable impact on the lives of young people. 

Pima County, AZ and other Grad Nation Communities are committed to ending the high school dropout crisis that affects one in four of our public school children. These communities are at the front line of efforts to help young people succeed in school, work and life.