New learning environments highlight importance of Move the Middle initiative

"I believe given the current situation, the Move the Middle initiative has an even greater responsibility to ensure students' needs are being met."
—Nicole Bennett, Director of Education Initiatives, United Way of Rock River Valley

Dominic only shows up to middle school a few days a week. His home life is unstable, night to night he doesn't know where he'll sleep. His grades dip to failing levels — on top of missing assignments from not being in school consistently, when he is there, he struggles to concentrate as so much weighs on his mind.

Now, Dominic's been told he can't come to school at all because of a global pandemic. While his family already struggles, now, everyday, he's expected to find a computer with internet if he wants to learn and keep up.

Dominic's situation isn't some hypothetical situation. It's what many middle school students are living through today in the Rock River Valley. It's exactly why United Way's Move the Middle initiative is more critically important than ever before.

At the start of the 2019 school year, we put a United Way employee inside Lincoln Middle School to specifically track and identify the very student we're talking about. Before e-learning became the only way of learning, our Achievement Advocates were building relationships with these students and offering them and their families help to ensure they will be on track to graduate high school by the time they get to the 9th grade. That help has a huge impact, providing students with tutors, homelessness assistance, trauma counseling, domestic violence resources, and so much more.

Middle school success is vital in developing a bright future for our community.

The biggest issues we're facing in the Rock River Valley are crime, poverty, and unemployment. And the biggest driving force that leads someone down one or all of those paths is dropping out of high school. That is why we identified middle school as our top priority. We must reach our students who are falling off track and offer them the help they need long before they walk into high school; they must be given the resources they need while still in middle school. That was true before this pandemic, and it's even more true now.

To learn more about our Move the Middle initiative, and the system that is tracking and helping our students who need it most, read about our Early Warning Response System and the progress being made in Lincoln Middle School.

Watch Dominic's story