LEARN UNITED Collaborative Partnership launches in Nashua to support students, families and teachers
United Way of Greater Nashua is leading the effort to create a volunteer-driven tutoring program in support of the city’s students. In the wake of a nearly 4 month remote learning shutdown combined with the usual “summer slide,” it is anticipated that thousands of students across the state’s 2nd largest school district will need additional academic support this fall. The community has recognized that the depth and breadth of the problem is likely far greater than the usual resources which would be available and is planning a broad-based response to the problem. The initiative, dubbed “LEARN UNITED” will include hundreds of volunteer tutors recruited across a variety of academic disciplines. These United Way COVID Response Team volunteer tutors will be placed under the guidance of one of the city’s youth serving organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua, Nashua PAL, Girls Inc., the Adult Learning Center, or the YMCA of Greater Nashua. In one of these locations, or in an offsite location, potentially including a local church or synagogue or other community space, the tutors will be matched up with students who are referred in by a teacher, guidance counselor, or administrator from the school district. Behind the scenes, helping to coordinate the effort, will be United Way, the Youth Council, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the Nashua School District’s 21stCentury After School Program. According to United Way President Mike Apfelberg, “Thing of this like the biggest homework club you have ever imagined. Over a dozen agencies, working together in lockstep, overseeing the efforts of hundreds of volunteers, to support the learning and social-emotional needs of thousands of students. It’s a very big project designed to combat a very big problem. We decided that a collaborative approach, building on the strengths of many organizations, is the only way to be effective in this unprecedented time of student need.” The program is scheduled to launch in October, giving students and teachers 4-6 weeks to adjust to the new learning environment and identify the learning gaps to be addressed.
School Supply and Tech Pantry
An additional component of LEARN UNITED is the creation of a “School Supply and Tech Pantry” at United Way to additionally support the needs of young learners and their families. The pantry will contain traditional school supplies such as backpacks, notepads, markers, and pencils, along with donated and refurbished laptops and tablets. All of these materials are located in a dedicated space at United Way’s offices in Nashua and will be open to low income students as well as teachers. “We all know a teacher who has gone to the store to purchase supplies out of their own pocket. Or a student who could really use their own laptop, but the family cannot afford one. Our School Pantry is a response to this ongoing problem, which has only been made worse through the COVID pandemic and subsequent school shutdowns. We all know to go to the food pantry when we need to eat. Our School Supply and Tech Pantry will be the same, but for learning,” according to Apfelberg.
A final component of LEARN UNITED is the purchase by United Way of mobile hotspots for young learners who cannot afford internet access. Hundreds of students have been identified who’s families aren’t located close enough to a public hot spot and cannot afford their own internet. In response, United Way has already ordered 100 mobile hot spots to be given to the students who meet these criteria. More will be purchased as necessary in order to ensure educational equity in a remote learning environment.
With school begin just around the corner, United Way wishes to acknowledge the many community partners involved with these efforts, along with its great partnership with the Nashua School District and the Nashua Teachers Union. Without these partnerships the community would likely fall far short of its goal to create the smartest, strongest, and healthiest students in the state. United Way is currently seeking support for this initiative. Most needed are: volunteers to support tutoring services, volunteers to refurbish used technology, donations of laptops and tablets, donations of school supplies, and of course financial support for a program which will ultimately cost many thousands of dollars. People and organizations interested in learning more can email firstname.lastname@example.org
United Way of Greater Nashua is a 4-Star / Platinum Level rated charity by GuideStar and Charity Navigator. It has served the 11 communities of Greater Nashua since 1930, fighting for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community. More information can be found at www.unitedwaynashua.org