Evanston/Skokie has been designated as one of 16 primary geographic areas that the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago (UWMC) has decided to target under its “Education Investment Plan.” The plan was presented to a group of local non-profit organizations at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center on April 12. 

Evanston/Skokie is one of only two areas designated as a primary target area in the North Shore, the other being Highwood/Highland Park. 

Under its Education Investment Plan, UWMC will spend $8 million to fund programs that focus on two transitional phases in a child’s education: 1) early childhood development (0-5 years old), to ensure that children enter school ready to learn; and 2) middle school years, to ensure students transition to high school successfully, said Sarah Frick, director media and community relations for UWMC. 

Elizabeth Graettinger Cole, vice president community investment of UWMC, said UWMC looked at all the transition points, drawing on the expertise of a panel of experts, and concluded that focusing on these two transition areas would have the most impact. 

“By targeting key transitions in a child or student’s life, we hope to intervene at those places where children and youth tend to fall off track in their educational trajectory, help keep them in school, continue learning, and ultimately graduate from high school ready for college and work,” says the plan. 

UWMC will make grants to non-profit organizations through a competitive application process. It will give greater priority to programs that serve individuals and families with household incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty line and that serve populations with the greatest risk of poor educational outcomes. 

In the area of the early childhood, UWMC plans to invest in programs that provide high quality preschool programs and that provide high quality home visiting to improve early childhood education. 

In the middle school area, UWMC will support holistic community support models that work with middle school students as they prepare for ninth grade, and ensure that youth receive the necessary physical, mental, academic, and social supports. 

About $450,000 will be distributed to organizations in the North Shore Region each year in the next few years, said Jessica Anzaldua, program manager for North Shore United Way. Grants will be for a minimum of two years. 

UWMC is encouraging non-profit organizations to collaborate in submitting applications for funding. Applications are due on April 22, and the awards will be announced in August. 

In selecting Evanston/Skokie and other areas as primary target areas, Ms. Cole said UWMC took into account the percentage of children from low-income households in the area, the capacity of organizations in the area to address the needs identified by UWMC, as well as other factors. 

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he reached out to UWMC and offered to provide a place for the meeting with non-profit organizations. “From the City’s perspective, we really embrace this,” he said. “We’re doing everything in our power to make UWMC want to invest in Evanston.”