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United Way NSV Helps Kids Achieve Their Potential

Education is a cornerstone for success in school, work and life. It also benefits the whole community: high school graduates have higher earning potential, contribute more to their local economies, are more engaged in their communities, and are more likely to raise kids who also graduate on time. Find out more about...

Our Priorities
Our Impact
Priority Needs Review 2014-2017
The Need 2017-2020
Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Our Priorities

The 2017-2020 needs assessment, released in April of 2017, identified the following as United Way NSV priorities through 2020

I. Children have access to basic needs


  • Partner with organizations that are meeting basic needs of students with a school based approach.
  • Utilize partnerships to connect financially unstable families with the resources to promote financial stability.
  • Mobilize United Way NSV corporate partners and volunteers to respond to basic needs through volunteer engagement projects.

Invest in programs that:

  • Provide basic needs support to children and families in crisis. 
  • Help children who face neglect or abuse.
  • Promote positive parenting and healthy child development.
II. Preschool aged children have access to affordable, high quality, early learning programs that prepare them for kindergarten


Invest in programs that:

  • Provide tuition assistance for families unable to afford a quality preschool education.
  • Promote high quality learning programs that prepare children for kindergarten.
III. Students have access to high quality, enriching out of school programs where students have support and encouragement for educational success from engaged parents/advocates and mentors.


Invest in programs that:

  • Ensure the availability of quality before and after-school care for school-aged children and youth.
  • Provide early dropout prevention, and continue drop-out prevention efforts among middle and high school-aged children.
  • Support collaborative efforts that help children read, build external and internal assets in youth, and prevent risky behavior.
IV. Middle school and high school students have access to age-appropriate college and career preparation and graduate equipped with skills for success.


  • Support regional efforts to educate and promote a variety of career paths and post-secondary education options.

Invest in programs that:

  • Advance learning and career development
  • Provide leadership and workforce development opportunities.

Our Impact

United Way NSV invested in Education programs over a 3 year Period (2014-2016). Understandably, some programs saw an overlap between all the priority needs.

How is United Way NSV investing in programs and services provided by area agencies that are addressing these needs?

Early Childhood Learning and Preparing Children for School Readiness:
  • Fremont St. Nursery – Tuition assistance and programs that serve 84 children. Funded programs include: Soccer Shots Program, Garden Project, Summer Program, Music Program and a new Art Program.
  • Healthy Families NSV - Home visit parent education for at-risk families.
  • Heritage Child Development – Tuition assistance for low-income families and funds for the completion of the Clubhouse Playground project with a playground/Equipment climber.
  • Shenandoah Discovery Museum - Provides children and families served by Head Start unlimited access to Museum education for one year.
  • Shenandoah Education Foundation (Dolly Parton Imagination Library) - Provides a free book to registered children every month until they turn five, upon which they receive a graduation book.
  • Winchester Day Nursery - Provides scholarships to families who could not afford a quality preschool education.
School Mentoring – Reducing Truancy and School Drop Out Rates:
  • Big Brothers/Big Sisters NW Virginia - Site based mentorship program called BigTIME. TIME is an acronym for Teaching, Impacting, Mentoring, and Encouraging.
  • Boys & Girls Club NSV - Every Member, Every Year program model is designed so Clubs can partner with youth, parents, schools and other community stakeholders to implement approaches to strengthen academic enrichment and school engagement; and targeted dropout prevention. Funding also helps supplement the snack program (school year) and lunch program (summer).
Advanced Learning, Career Development and Workforce Development:
  • Girl Scout Council, Nation's Capital - Science Discovery after school STEM program for 150 girls.
  • LFCC Education Foundation -To provide additional ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes and a textbook lending library for non-traditional students.
  • Shenandoah Area Boy Scouts - Exploring career education program for young men and women in sixth grade through 20 years old.

To see a full list of the impact grants awarded in the Education category click here.

Priority Needs Review 2014-2017

The 2014-2017 United Way NSV Community Needs Assessment was published in July of 2014. The report provided a progress report on the social conditions targeted in 2010 and recommended the following funding priorities:

  1. Reduce truancy and school dropout rates.
  2. Prepare children for school readiness.
  3. Advance learning and career development.
  4. Leadership and workforce development including youth program collaboration. 

United Way of Northern Shenandoah Valley serves Clarke County, Frederick County, Shenandoah County and the City of Winchester. United Way Warren County/Front Royal serves Warren County and United Way Page County served Page County. The following table documents overall progress on these goals for the jurisdictions served.

All jurisdictions saw an increase in on time high school graduation from 2010-2016. Four of six jurisdictions experienced a decrease in the need for kindergarten remediation. One of six jurisdictions saw an increase in college participation, while college participation stayed the same in two of the six jurisdictions. An explanation of the investments in each of the priority areas is detailed on the following page.

The Need (2017-2020)

Key findings from the 2017-2020 needs assessment for the education section are found below. To download the complete needs assessment see the link at the top of the webpage.

Access to Quality and Affordable Pre-School Education:
  • In general, there has been an improvement in the percentage of kindergarteners needing remedial assistance (four of six jurisdiction saw a decrease in the number of kindergarteners needing remedial assistance). Despite the improvement, Shenandoah County, Warren County and the City of Winchester have percentages that exceed the Virginia average. (Figure 2.1)
  • In the City of Winchester, 30% (almost one third) of all kindergarteners need remedial assistance. (Figure 2.1)
  • There are potentially more than 6,000 children in the Northern Shenandoah Valley (based on the jurisdictions included in this report) that are unable to access early childhood education or day care. (Figure 2.2)
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is affordable if it costs no more than 10% of a family’s income. By this standard only 35.6% of Virginians can afford infant care. (Figure 2.3)
  • For a median income family, childcare costs account for 13.7% of their income. For a minimum wage, family childcare costs could be upwards of 69.4% of their income. (Figure 2.3)
  • According to a report released by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), high-quality child care has a long-lasting impact on a child’s development, behavior and cognitive abilities. Based on the findings of the report, children who received high-quality care in the first few years of life scored higher on measures of academic and cognitive achievement when they were 15 years old, and were less likely to misbehave, than those who were enrolled in lower-quality child care.
Economic Disadvantage and Access to Basic Needs:
  • According to 2015 estimates, over 6,800 children in our region are considered to be in poverty. Clarke County – 512, Frederick County – 1,488, Page County – 966, Shenandoah County – 1,724, Warren County – 978, City of Winchester – 1,166. (Figure 2.4)
  • Clarke County, Warren County, and Winchester have all seen an increase in children living in poverty from 2010-2015. Frederick County has seen a decrease in children in poverty from 2010-2015. Currently, Page County, Shenandoah County, Warren County, and the City of Winchester are all above the Virginia average of 15% for 2015. (Figure 2.4)
  • Many experts argue that the percentage of students enrolled in Free/Reduced Lunch Programs is a better indicator of low socioeconomic status than poverty statistics. 52% of students in Page County and 61% of students in the City of Winchester qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch which exceeds the State of Virginia average of 42%. All jurisdictions saw an increase in Free/Reduced Lunch program enrollments from 2009-2017. (Figure 2.5)
  • 229 students in Winchester Public Schools are considered homeless; that is more than 5% of the school population. (Page 6 –Education)
  • Children from families who are struggling to put food on the table are more likely to repeat a grade in elementary school, experience developmental impairments in areas like language and motor skills and have more social and behavioral problems.
  • Children living below 200% of poverty level are economically disadvantaged and live in families that struggle to meet basic needs: food, housing, utilities, child care and transportation. 2 in 5 children in the Valley Region classify as economically disadvantaged. 61% of children in Winchester are considered to be economically disadvantaged, which is the highest of all jurisdictions. (Figure 2.6)
  • Economically disadvantaged students saw a much lower on time graduation rate than all students in all the jurisdictions. For the jurisdictions that provided data, English learners had even lower on time graduation rates and the lowest on time graduation rates were seen by students in the homeless population. (Figure 2.10)
Literacy and English Language Learners: 
  • City of Winchester Public Schools had the highest percentage of English Learners, followed by Shenandoah County. In comparison to school divisions from around the state of Virginia, the City of Winchester ranks as having the 7th highest percentage of Limited English Proficient students. (Figure 2.7)
  • Every important social issue is impacted by low literacy. When individuals learn how to read, write, do basic math, and use computers, they have the power to lift themselves out of poverty, lower health care costs, find and keep sustainable employment, and ultimately change their lives.
  • Parental involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement. Children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to receive poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out of school.
  • Of adults with the lowest literacy levels, 43% live in poverty. 70% of adult welfare recipients have low literacy levels. There is a clear correlation between more education and higher earnings, and between higher educational scores and higher earnings.
  • According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime, is welded to reading failure.” 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70% of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.
Postsecondary Education & Workforce Development:
  • All jurisdictions saw an increase in on time graduation rates from 2009 to 2016. All jurisdictions also had an on time graduation rate that is greater than the State of Virginia Average. (Figure 2.9)
  • The disparities in educational attainment are more significant in rural areas where access to post-secondary opportunities may not be as predominant. Transportation could play a factor as rural populations may have a harder time accessing community colleges, colleges, and universities for advanced degrees. (Figure 2.14)
  • The most significant trend is the notable increase in 1-2 year certificates from 2010 to 2013. The economic benefits of completing a certificate program or associates degree have become an attractive option in a competitive workforce due to low unemployment rates. (Figure 2.15)
  • The true ratio of jobs in our economy is 1:2:7. For every occupation that requires a master’s degree or more, two professional jobs require a university degree and there are 7 jobs that require a 1 year certificate or 2-year degree. Many of those jobs are in highly skilled areas, and are in great demand.
  • Students who finish high school with a diploma have more earning potential than those without, and the unemployment rate is significantly lower. Someone with less than a high school diploma has an average unemployment rate of 8% versus 5.4% for someone with a high school diploma. The average median weekly earnings for a high school graduate is $678 versus $493 for someone without a high school diploma. (Figure 2.16)