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July 25, 2016

Education Is a Great Equalizer

What happens to one, matters to all. Our thoughts and sadness are for the many lives lost and others forever changed over the past several weeks. 

Our actions though… Our actions require that we continue to look for ways to impact the thrivability of all people.

Our instinct might be to lash out, to vocalize our anger, and, for some, to take more harmful action. In addition to deep sadness, I believe those instincts come from a place of wanting to “do” something, but not knowing what to “do” that will make things better.

Like many, I feel a sense of loss, and, for a brief moment, somewhat paralyzed by the occurrences of violence and intolerance to which we are now witnesses. The challenge seems so big, the “enemy” elusive. It is not as though you can fell one person or more and the “problem” will go away. It won’t. You can’t shoot down an ideology. You cannot alter a person’s thoughts by striking out.

When I think about what I can do to make a difference, to leave this world in a better state than I found it, my thoughts go to the phrase, “one day at a time.” As with any challenge that feels too big to grasp and therefore leaves us to ponder how to move forward, ideology, injustice and intolerance do not arrive at one’s door overnight. They are slowly cultivated. Days, weeks, years… 

In the same way, change — lasting change — must happen slowly, over time, but with intentional, purposeful actions that drive that change. When I think about the work of United Way and our ability to gather a collective around driving change in community and beyond, I feel a great challenge to ensure that my/our actions, however small, every day help us to arrive at community thrivability.

I am inspired by the words of Frederick Douglass: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

On the surface, our efforts to develop the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Manatee County might not seem related. They are. Education is a great equalizer. Education provides the foundation and the pathway to thrivability. With equitable access to educational opportunities, we have a shot at coming together as a community to create the society in which we aspire to live.

After more than 400 conversations, our community has shared what they want: a safe place to live, equitable access to quality education, financial stability in their own lives and their families, access to healthcare and healthcare supports.

For the past eight years, United Way has been slowly transforming our business model to position ourselves to tackle these more socially complex issues at the community level. We heard you, Manatee County, and like you, we aspire to a future where all achieve thrivability.

So, if you are wondering, “what can I do today to change our community tomorrow?” Consider some small steps:

1. Pick up a book and read to a child.

2. Volunteer your time in our community. Check out options on 

3. Get trained to be a parent mentor and then go and do.

4. Help somebody do their taxes.

5. Work with a child to achieve college access.

6. Be a mentor.

7. Connect.

Remember this: small, purposeful steps today will create a pathway to the future to which we aspire.

At United Way of Manatee County, we fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community we serve. Join us. Manatee Mind Trust is a collective, child-focused vision for our county’s greatness. Brilliant minds need Education. Brilliant Minds need Health. Brilliant Minds need Financial Stability.

photo credit: COD, West Chicago District 33 Team Up through New Dual-Language Program 2016 28 via photopin (license)

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