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United Way of Southeastern Idaho receives $150,000 grant

The United Way of Southeastern Idaho received a $150,000 grant from StriveTogether, which will be put to use on the organization’s cradle-to-career program.

Aimed at developing “cheap, easy and free” learning activities for parents to do with their children, it’s a way of giving children early learning opportunities in a state that greatly lacks them.

“Idaho is last in the nation, tied with North Dakota, for the least number of children who have early learning opportunities,” United Way of Southeastern Idaho CEO Margaret Ganyo explained. “We’re at 32 percent and the national average is at 57 percent.”

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to catch up in Ganyo’s eyes.

“It’s not just a matter of our kids don’t have opportunities before they hit kindergarten, it’s that they’re not ready for kindergarten when they arrive,” she said.

According to the Census, less than 30 percent of Idahoans over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree, while more than 90 percent of the state had a high school diploma.

And one of the biggest impacts on secondary education is your early learning.

“The easiest ways to move to go-on rate and retaining and completing post-secondary education was to have high-quality preschool,” Ganyo said. “And we know it’s true.”

Now, with a $150,000 grant, the organization will be able to set up systems of communication to help parents. Ganyo calls it a “startup cost” that will help get things in place for the future.

But the investment doesn’t just impact today’s parents and their children.

“This investment is a multi-generational investment,” Ganyo explained. “So we have a cradle-to-career initiative that works from birth through obtaining employment…so we can come in with programs that are things that won’t cost the parent’s anything but will provide them with opportunities as if they were more affluent, to give their kids a better start.”

The grant is a huge step in the right direction for the program and an honor since only 11 were given out nationwide.

Ganyo believes it’s because StriveTogether noticed their “grit.”

“They can see us out here, they know smaller communities…they see our community is really coming together, really united to do the best we can for our kids and they’re willing to bet on that,” Ganyo said.

Transitioning out of her CEO position at the end of the week, after more than 15 years at the helm, Ganyo is “super excited” to have an opportunity like this be her last act.

The United Way encourages anyone who interacts or deals with children, aged zero to six, to reach out so that they can connect and involve them in their activities.

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