Media Release: United Way “Hill Day” supports Pre-K and family resource centers, awards advocacy leaders

Contact: Mary Graham, President, United Ways of Tennessee

(NASHVILLE, TN) United Ways of Tennessee (UWTN), the association of38 United Way organizations across the state, will gather tomorrow for its “Hill Day” activities supporting preservation of funding for Pre-K classrooms and restoration of funding for family resource centers.

The day includes a breakfast with legislators at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, followed by an advocates’ training session in the Senate Chamber. There will also be an award ceremony and legislative visits.

Bryce Haugsdahl, President, United Way of the Mid-South (Greater Memphis area) and Chairman of Board, United Ways of Tennessee

“While we were grateful that Pre-K classrooms received full funding in the Governor’s budget, we need to stay vigilant in tough economic times,” said Bryce Haugsdahl, Chairman of the Board for United Ways of Tennessee.  “Every $1 spent on Pre-K saves taxpayers $7 by reducing the need for special education, welfare and criminal justice services.  We’re only serving a third of at-risk children now, and research shows that Pre-K leads to higher graduation rates, less crime, and better wages for those who attended.”

United Way advocates will also be asking legislators to restore $3.05 million in funding to family resource centers. “Family resource centers provide basic support services including food, clothing, mentoring, academic supports and case management to our state’s most vulnerable children,” said Haugsdahl.  “They also leverage $2.7 million in federal funds, almost a dollar-for-dollar match.”

“Family resource centers enable children and youth to stay in school, concentrate, and succeed academically,” said Mary Graham, President of United Ways of Tennessee.  “They are essential if we are ever to close the education gap with low-income children and youth.  These kids need their basic needs met so they can show up to school ready to learn.”

United Ways of Tennessee continues its tradition of awarding and spotlighting the work of key education advocates during its Hill Day activities.

“Tennessee First Lady Crissy Haslam is receiving this year’s biggest honor, our Advocacy Leadership Award,” Haugsdahl announced. “She has graciously and tirelessly used her passion for education and the visibility of her office to spotlight Raise Your Hand Tennessee, our statewide effort to generate volunteers to tutor, read to, and mentor children and youth.”

Dr. Brenda L.Benford is receiving this year’s Teaching Effectiveness Champion award.  “As Director of Pre-K programs in Hamilton County, she has set the stage for community based programs through strong partnerships with child care programs,” said Haugsdahl.  “Her advocacy for effective teaching and quality programs for young children puts them on the path for success in school and in life.”

Additional awards will be presented to organizations supporting Raise Your Hand Tennessee, including the Reading Champion award presentation to Ride for Reading; the Tutoring Champion award to Tennessee Valley Authority; and the Mentoring Champion award to Comcast.

United Ways of Tennessee has expanded its partnerships for its Hill Day this year.  “We have long partnered with the Tennessee Alliance on Early Education, Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, Tennessee Association for the Education of Young Children, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Stand for Children on our Hill Day,” said Graham.  “This year, we’re pleased to have added Tennessee’s League of Women Voters, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Tennessee PTA, TNAchieves, the Children’s Reading Foundation of Knox County, and Tennessee Voices for Children.  We believe more numerous voices from various perspectives will exponentially enhance the impact of our advocacy work.”

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