How UWSD Impacted San Diego County in 2021

Young elementary student reading a book

Written by: Calina Nguyen, Marketing Coordinator

United We Can

The last couple of years have been challenging as COVID-19 has affected our community. During the height of the pandemic, racial inequities were highlighted and disparities widened. With the gaps growing, many San Diegans today struggle to get by as the economic crisis of COVID-19 continues.

This is why we are centered on education and family stability, supporting those in the community who have fallen behind. Through our initiatives and community collaborations, we’re able to help the children and families who need it most to close the gaps.

Last year:

  • 30,865 San Diegans were impacted countywide
  • We had 135 Partners
    • 97 Partners collaborating on shared goals from a variety of sectors: early and K-12 education, business, government, work-force, higher education, health, and non-profit
  • 38 Schools working in partnership with United Way 
  • 284 Volunteers engaged in virtual and on-site volunteerism

We would like to share how we were able to approach these disparities in our community and how it impacted the lives of San Diegans:

Early Childhood Success

Reader in the Heights (RITH)

There is no doubt that making good reading habits increases academic competency but is also extremely beneficial for a child’s personal development and growth. The Reader in the Heights initiative originally aimed to provide children with an in-person summer camp-like experience for expanding their literacy. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it shifted to an at-home family-focused program. One would imagine this shift would decelerate the goal of this initiative. Although, the effects of this alteration were incredibly profound:

  • At three months post-implementation, 85% of parents reported that their child enjoyed reading and 70% of parents reported feeling confident in helping their child read.
  • Families bonded around reading and changed their at-home family reading habits; they observed growth in their children’s interest in reading and comprehension, learning more about their child’s abilities in the process.

Due to the incredible help of our partners (City Heights Development Corporation, City Heights/Weingart Library, Council on Literacy, Karen Organization, Words Alive) and the persevering drive of parents, students were able to build strong family reading habits and excitement around reading despite the challenges presented during the pandemic.

Every Student, Every Family (ESEF)

There are so many obstacles that can affect a child’s chance to be more successful in school. Factors such as food insecurity, lack of access to technology, caring for their siblings, job loss, and more make it harder for these students and families to not only survive but thrive. 

Every Student, Every Family is helping to put an end to such disparities. ESEF is a network of school and community partners, convened by United Way of San Diego County (UWSD), that creates equitable support systems for youth and families so that students can be successful in school and beyond. ESEF addresses both the educational needs of historically underserved students and the needs of their families in City Heights, Lemon Grove, and Escondido.

In this past year due to the collaborative efforts: 

  • There was a 92% increase in meal distribution at participating ESEF sites.
  • Families received support resulting in newer computer equipment, enhanced broadband, and other technology-related support.
  • In Escondido, ESEF partners conducted home visits to assess needs and barriers to learning.  As a result, families were connected to resources to ensure their children could be successful in school.

Youth Success

Advancing San Diego (ASD)

Today, having the opportunity to showcase your talent and gain work experience during college is imperative to getting hired after graduation. Unfortunately, there are still underserved youth in our local community who cannot find jobs in high-demand industries due to lack of experience. Over 60% of local jobs require some level of post-secondary education. But many of our students aren’t prepared, and they’re missing out on these local opportunities.

Advancing San Diego, a collaborative effort among community partners, local businesses, educational institutions, and UWSD, is providing paid internship experiences to help increase access to local jobs for underserved youth in fields such as software engineering, manufacturing, sales, and marketing.

Last year alone, 93 local students interned at 46 companies helping these students have a stronger future with real-world experience in high-growth industries like software, health care, and life sciences.

UWSD continues to leverage its data and evaluation skills to serve as the local evaluator of this collaborative effort. In addition, UWSD has established a local evaluation advisory committee to ensure that diverse voices are being represented within this initiative.

Family Stability

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition

For many families, a tax refund can mean the world and help address economic disparities. It can help get bills paid, provide new clothes and supplies, or go towards buying a safe and reliable car to help transport their children to school.

The EITC Coalition, a collaborative initiative among UWSD and other partners in the county, provides much-needed financial relief for low-to-moderate-income families. Families received $28 million in refunds last tax season. This free tax preparation assistance made it possible for these families to receive important tax credits that have helped put food on the table, pay rent and utilities, and cover other basic necessities.

  • 15,556 individuals received free tax preparation assistance.
  • 29,876 federal and state returns filed, totaling over $28 million in federal and state refunds last year.

Worker Assistance Initiative (WAI)

The need for collaboration never felt stronger than when COVID-19 hit our country and our San Diego region. Families found themselves struggling to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. 

In response, UWSD launched the Worker Assistance Initiative to support individuals and families with rent, mortgage, and utility payments. WAI was part of the San Diego COVID-19 Community Response Fund, a collaboration among The San Diego Foundation, the County of San Diego, San Diego, and Imperial Counties Labor Council, SDG&E, and UWSD.

Due to the incredible generosity throughout the community:

  • $2,006,222 was distributed to help San Diegans keep the lights on and a roof over their head during the pandemic.
  • 10,682+ individuals received rent, mortgage, or utilities assistance.  

While things have changed since those initial months of the pandemic, many families are still vulnerable and struggling to get by. Some don’t know where their next meal is coming from or how to pay rent as they face affordable housing challenges. The gaps and widened disparities created from the pandemic will take time to close. That’s why we continue to fight for family stability and those who have fallen behind in San Diego.

Our work to ensure that all children, young adults, and families can thrive doesn’t stop here. UWSD is dedicated to doubling down with our expert partners to find solutions for some of our region’s most pressing needs. We are elevating the best ways to support educational success and family stability built on proven practices, solid data, and strong community partnerships. With your support, we can close the gaps in our community and create a bright future for San Diego. Please consider donating now to help us continue our work.