Dear United Way Friends,
I hope this note continues to find you and yours safe and healthy.
We recently shared information with our Board of Directors about disparities that exist in Forsyth County and how we are aligning our investments to work to close them. A few months ago, you may remember I communicated United Way’s vision for equity. I wanted to share the information on disparities with you too because it is so integral to our work.
Data shows us that in Forsyth County 33 percent of African American and 45 percent of Hispanic/Latinx children under the age of 18 are living in poverty compared to 11 percent of White children.
Additionally, 59 percent of African Americans, 46 percent of Hispanic/Latinx and 37 percent of White residents pay rent that exceeds 30 percent or more of their income.
And, when we look at the educational achievement gaps, we see that only 37 percent of African American and 35 percent of Hispanic/Latinx are proficient at third grade reading as compared to 74 percent of White children.
This data highlights just some of the racial disparities that exist in Forsyth County. Reducing these and other disparities is a cornerstone for all our work. We want to create a community where race does not play a part in a person’s educational achievements, housing conditions, or economic mobility. Therefore, we have set the following goals so that everyone in our community has an opportunity to thrive.
To decrease the poverty rate and close the disparities that currently exist, we have a goal that 2500 households advance along the Economic Mobility Roadmap to a point of Self-Sufficiency by 2025.
We also have a goal to reduce the rent burden for 1,000 households to no more than 30 percent of their monthly income by 2025.
We have been focused on improving the graduation rate for a long time. In order to achieve this, we’ve taken a step back to focus on increasing third grade reading proficiency from 52 percent to 90 percent by closing the educational equity gap by 2029, resulting in a 90 percent graduation rate.
Equity must be the cornerstone of all our work for one very simple reason. United Way will never achieve its goals if we do not close the disparities that exist in our community. For example, we cannot achieve a 90 percent third grade reading proficiency if we do not close the gap between white students and students of color.
I have always been aware there are parents whose children did not have the luxury of the same opportunities as my children did. It has caused me to feel both grateful and sad. When I put myself in the place of parents whose children haven’t had the same opportunities, whether it is related to education or being hired for a job, it reiterates the importance of the work we are doing. When I think of individuals that do not have the privilege of interacting with law enforcement and not being considered a threat, it makes the goals we have set out to achieve personal for so many individuals in our community.
The scope of the problem can feel overwhelming but the opportunity to transform OUR community to a place where everyone is provided an equal opportunity to thrive is achievable. We envision a community where there is not an educational gap between students of color and white students, where ALL students are graduating from high school, where there is not an income disparity, but EVERYONE is stable and working towards self-sufficiency. Where regardless of where you grow up in Forsyth County, whether it is East or West, North or South, you have the same opportunities available to you.
Understanding that we can learn and grow and seeing people all around that care about a more equitable community keeps me and the team at United Way focused on the work and hopeful for better outcomes for everyone.
Bottom line, I believe it does not cost us anything for others to have access to opportunities. It is not a pie. Opportunity is limitless. We can all have a piece of success.
As always, thank you for LIVING UNITED.
President and CEO of United Way of Forsyth County