Becoming School-Ready Starts at Home

What does it take to change a life?

For today’s school-age child, that question may be best addressed before stepping through the doors of kindergarten for the first time.

Yes, according to more and more research, children’s success in school is often tied to their level of pre-kindergarten education, both in academic measures and social/emotional skills.

According to First Five Nebraska, thirty-three percent of children in Platte Country ages birth through age 5 are considered at risk for school failure, and 61 percent are at risk in neighboring Colfax County.

A more positive way of looking at this statistic can be observed from Bryan Slone, President Nebraska Chamber of Commerce & Industry, on the First Five Nebraska website: “Research shows that children with higher levels of school readiness at age five are more successful in grade school, are less-likely to drop out of high school, and will earn more as adults.”

Because of the research shown to prevent many of the most common challenges facing today’s youth, the Columbus Area United Way board of directors has chosen to place a heavy emphasis on supporting early education programming.

This includes supporting current initiatives such as The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a direct program of the United Way which provides books in the mail to any child whose parents live in the Columbus city limits or work at Cargill in Schuyler or Sentinel Buildings in Albion. Children receive one new book each month until they’re four years old. Last year the program provided more than 1,650 books.

Reading at home to your children is a key step to preparing them for success in school says Denise Kollath, the program’s coordinator.

In 2016, the United Way also started a brand new direct program designed to target children who may not have had formal preschool or could be predisposed to struggle in the classroom setting. In the past three years, 91 children have attended Kindergarten Readiness Camp. The United Way will continue to track these student’s progress through their school years in order to see the full benefits of the program.

Finally, the United Way continues to support educational programs organized by partner organizations and Community Impact Grant recipients including:

  • a Place at the Table which provides approximately 272 backpacks of food each week to CPS students who don’t have stable access to food over the weekends,

  • the Time 4 Change Summer Parks Program directed at preventing teen activity in gangs,

  • Student Health’s 2000+ annual vision screenings to help students see and succeed in the classroom,

  • and the Summer Enrichment program funded by the local Community Well-Being Coalition and managed by CPS in partnership with United Way for kindergarten through second graders to help boost learning during the summer break.

All of these programs also extend beyond the classroom to help students of all ages become and stay school-ready so that they can succeed in academics and in life.

So what does it take to change a life for today’s young children?


Each donation to the United Way can change a life. Please consider giving a year-end or monthly gift to the Columbus Area United Way 2018-2019 Annual Campaign to help continue programs like these. To set up your donation, visit or call the office at 564-5661.