We close opportunity gaps to ensure children read at grade level by 3rd grade and youth are prepared for educational success and employment.
Reading is the foundation of success, but many Arizona students are falling behind. Right now, 65% of 3rd-graders in our state are not proficient in reading. Valley of the Sun United Way is partnering with Read Better Be Better to help students start a new chapter. Read Better Be Better is a peer-to-peer after school program. Readers are paired with middle school leaders for 10 weeks. The reader improves their literacy skills while their leader improves their leadership skills.
A high school diploma and post-secondary education are the gateway to better paying jobs. Nearly 7 of 10 jobs in Arizona require training beyond high school. Student success starts with quality early education that builds skills, especially reading proficiency. If students are not proficient readers when they begin fourth grade, as much as half of the curriculum will be incomprehensible, and they are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Yet, in Arizona, only 35% of third graders read proficiently.
At the other end of the education spectrum, 1 in 4 local 16-24 year olds are not enrolled in school or employed, a number which has spiked dramatically during the pandemic to nearly 145,000 Opportunity Youth. Every student who does not complete high school costs an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity. Conversely, re-engaging one Opportunity Youth will return $65,230 in taxpayer savings and enable the student to contribute $105,500 in tax revenue, reduce crime expenditure by $13,700 and reduce government benefits by $9,660.
We support more than 50 programs and services provided by school, nonprofit and community partners who focus on building and strengthening literacy, increasing online learning and providing supportive services for families and teachers. The below Coalition members focus on our Mighty education goals and develop strategies to create impact. When informed by the Coalition and their Action Teams, we change course as needed to stay focused on the right programs and solutions to reach our bold goals for Maricopa County.
Arizona Department of Education
Arizona Head Start Association
ASU Opportunity Youth Zone
Education Forward Arizona
Scottsdale Community College
*Partners who have received MC2026 grant funding through Valley of the Sun United Way