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UWCC will use ARPA money for early childhood education

Gary Owen, president of United Way of Cascade County
Posted at 12:19 PM, Dec 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-30 16:33:31-05

The United Way of Cascade County was recently awarded $85,000 in ARPA funds to increase services for early childhood education. This project will be in collaboration with Great Falls Public Schools.

United Way of Cascade County president Gary Owen says it’s a need that is constantly growing.

Owen said, “What’s critically important is, as we’ve partnered with the school district over the last 10-plus years on what has been called Graduation Matters,' early childhood success has been a focus. We’ve also seen that we’ve been unable to move the needle on that particular metric."

Owen noted that approximately 25 to 30 percent of kids who come into kindergarten are not testing at age-appropriate levels. United Way aims to improve that through a variety of services that UWCC and Great Falls Public Schools plans to offer.

"We’ve recognized that it’s an issue in our community," Owen said. "We’ve not had the resources to focus specifically on that issue.”

Owen says the money will provide early childhood success strategies over the course of three years. He added that their Community Impact Director and Early Childhood Success Coordinator will work with various stakeholders to focus on early childhood success. The work with Great Falls Public Schools is also essential in a project such as this.

"It’s beneficial for us, but in particular, beneficial to the community," Owen said. "As we look at how to impact the children in our community and their likelihood for their success. We know that graduating from high school is the number one indicator of a multitude of issues that they will face later in life. We also know that so many factors come into play outside of the school walls and that is why United Way steps in and tries to help look at those factors from a community standpoint, and how do we, as a community help those youth, and have a better likelihood of success.”