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UWSC supports advocacy and public education

Kim Mack

The mission of United Way of Story County (UWSC) is to be a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community. A key component of the mission – evaluate effective human services – explains how we determine whether the financial investments we make in programs are making a difference. And that is important.

The UWSC board of directors Education work team put forth three results for UWSC and partner agencies to focus on: school readiness, third grade reading and advocacy and public education. This week we’ll share the work being done in the area of advocacy and public education.

Another name for this work is prevention and education. We all understand the importance of prevention when we talk about our health – preventive care includes having annual physicals, or visiting the dentist and having your teeth cleaned. You understand the importance of what needs to be done to your automobile to prevent engine failure by having those factory-warranted tune-ups and oil changes. But what do we mean when we say your gift will help support prevention and advocacy programs?

Prevention programs that United Way of Story County funds support the strengths of individuals, families, and communities with the goal to reduce or fully stop a negative activity or behavior from occurring.

Public Education and Awareness programs work to enhance the understanding of a problem or social issue. The topic-specific program may be targeted to a small group, a classroom, or a church group; or it may be a community-wide approach. Examples of what we fund include:

ACCESS – through their newsletters and speaking presentations they are working to enhance our communities’ understanding of domestic and sexual violence. They are addressing specific attitudes that can lead a culture to accept or even promote exploitation and abuse of others. By increasing the understanding and the reality of abuse, they are hoping that the community will increase their ability to identify abuse and intervene to assist those in need.

NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) - through newsletters, community events, and speaking to community groups NAMI helps the community develop a better understanding of mental illness, with a goal to help break down the stigma that prevents people from getting treatment.

Raising Readers in Story County – works to help communities be better equipped to intervene early with families and children to promote literacy. They have created a Community Literacy Tool-Kit to help others replicate programs that have proven to be successful.

The Arc of Story County – Advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by educating the community on ways they can help to preserve and protect fundamental rights and support legislation that impacts employment, housing, and other civil rights of people with disabilities.

YWCA – works hard to eliminate racism by teaching cultural differences at the International Friendship Fair, Martin Luther King community celebration, and the Women of Achievement event.

Advocacy and public education is essential in breaking down misconceptions and misunderstandings that surround complex issues within our community. By bringing awareness and discussion to these topics, we can build on our understanding for one another and help ensure a stronger Story County for us all.

Kim Mack is marketing director for UWSC.