United Way: Strengthening relationships is key to future success – Daily Herald | Wonder Mind Kids





Courtesy United Way

A volunteer reads to children in a classroom.

Every few years, the United Way of Utah County conducts a community assessment to learn more about how things are going in our community. This assessment helps us identify our community strengths and challenges that require additional support to address. These efforts, undertaken in partnership with exemplary agencies across the county, are vital to the well-being of our community.

Our most recent assessment was conducted in partnership with Community Action Services and Food Bank, Kids on the Move, Mountainland Association of Governments, Early Learning Essentials, Provo City Housing Authority, The Refuge Utah, Utah Community Credit Union, and Wasatch Behavior Health. The assessment we released this month was our most comprehensive effort and provides a comprehensive view of the state of Utah County over the period 2021-2022.

As I reviewed the data from this year’s assessment, I was struck by how the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to resonate in our community. While life has returned to a more familiar rhythm for many of us, the effects of the pandemic continue to impact us in different ways. I’ve noticed three major areas where work remains to be done to allow our community to fully recover.

The first of these areas is education for our children and youth. The learning disabilities caused by the pandemic are having a significant impact on our children’s academic lives. The pandemic caused the decline in skill levels in early childhood education, as well as in upper elementary and middle school. In 2019, 80% of kindergarten children in one of our school districts were at or above grade level in early literacy development at the end of the school year. In 2021, that percentage had dropped to 69.3%.

To ensure our children get the support they need to learn, we can all commit to doing a little more to prioritize early education — especially early literacy. By doing simple things, e.g. For example, by taking the time to talk to the children in our lives or by spending a few minutes reading aloud with them each day, we can demonstrate our commitment to learning. These activities, however simple, lay a strong foundation for our children’s future success.

Courtesy United Way

The Utah County Community Assessment.

Another area that requires increased attention is the mental well-being and resilience of our youth. The pandemic has been difficult for many reasons, one of which was the increasing sense of isolation experienced by so many in our community. This isolation, combined with other risk factors, made it very difficult for so many of our youth. Depression, anxiety, and poor emotional and mental health are becoming increasingly common among our youth. In 2021, 30.6% of teens who took part in the SHARP (Student Health and Risk Prevention) survey said they had felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks that they did some ordinary activities. This is an increase from 26.4% in 2019.

It may seem daunting to take on such a multifaceted challenge, but the good news is that there are simple things we can all do to build each other’s resilience. Making time for real connection and creating places of physical and emotional safety for our youth are simple actions that have immense benefits for our youth.

Of course, the connection is not only beneficial for the youth. Some of the most worrying data from the assessment showed that our sense of connectedness with our neighbors is declining. As part of the SHARP survey, 30% of all students report low neighborhood attachment, compared to 26.9 in 2019. Of the adults who took part in our survey, only 22.3% report that most or many of the People they can rely on in their lives live in their own neighborhood and only one in five felt they knew their neighbors well.

By taking the time to get to know one another and truly connect with our neighbors, we can strengthen our community networks and improve the quality of life for all of us. Strong communities are built on strong relationships. By strengthening our relationships today, we can lay the foundation for vibrant communities for years to come.

As our community prepares for unprecedented growth over the coming decades, it is imperative that we make time today to educate our children, support our youth, and strengthen our neighborhoods. Together we can prepare for a bright future for generations to come.

Courtesy United Way

Reading with children helps improve their reading and writing skills.

To learn more about the community assessment and how you can support Utah County’s future success, please visit http://unitedwayuc.org.

Spending time with children helps build their resilience skills.

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