From Barb Pellin, a retired CMS assistant superintendent:
On December 14, our entire nation was moved to tears when 20 innocent children and six adults were tragically killed in Newtown, Conn. As a life-long advocate for children, a mother of three, and a proud grandmother of five, my heart aches for these families, their community and Sandy Hook Elementary. This unexplainable tragedy has caused me to stop and take note of how valuable and priceless our children are, and how important it is for our community to elevate the resources we put toward our children and families.
Twenty-six families are devastated, searching for answers, at a time of the year that is generally defined by peace, hope and joy. I cant help but think about the children in our own community who are searching for that hope. I have devoted my life to children and families, and I fully understand the challenges and barriers our families face in these tough economic times. But I wonder if our community is truly aware of the plight that many of our children face?
Did you know
• That according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey, more than 37,000 of our school-age children in Mecklenburg County live in poverty? Thats 22 percent of the total population ages 18 and under.
• That Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools serves nearly 5,000 students who are reported homeless? Many of these children are living in shelters, with family members, in week-by-week motels, and even in their cars.
• And that the district-wide percentage of economically disadvantaged children in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools this year is 54.3 percent?
These numbers are alarming but lets define them in real life situations.
Living in poverty often means that children come to school not just without breakfast but probably without a proper meal the night before.
Living in poverty means that a child starts kindergarten with a word gap of more than 32 million words starting school behind children not living in poverty.
This year I agreed to serve as a volunteer on the Children and Youth Investment Council for United Way of Central Carolinas. In this role, I have the privilege of working with 10 other volunteers to decide how your generous contributions are most effectively used to serve our neighbors in need.
Ive learned that United Way is serving more than 350,000 individuals and families in 87 proven agencies in a five-county region. Nearly 21,000 at-risk children are participating in programs focused on academic success through United Ways work, and theyre making measurable progress in reading, math, attendance, promotion, and graduation. In addition, dollars are being spent to support quality child care and early learning programs, improve healthcare offerings, fund emergency and transitional housing programs, and more.
Our children need us today! I encourage you to see all the children of this community as an investment in our future, and consider how you can give back with financial resources, time, and energy to our United Way. Our children, families and community are counting on us!