Bright Starts for Brilliant Futures Initiative

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Bright Starts for Brilliant Futures Starts for Brilliant Futures is an initiative of United Way of the Greater Capital Region that brings funding, expertise and partner organizations together to tackle the issue of early-grade academic success. The goal is to help more Capital Region children and families break cycles of academic failure so more young people have an opportunity to graduate and contribute to their careers and families.

The issue

Education doesn’t begin with the first day of kindergarten, but with the first day of life. 85% of a child’s brain develops by the age of five. It is therefore critical that a strong foundation of learning is laid during the crucial early years.

8,019 Capital Region children under age four live in poverty-level households. Children from low-income households are at a higher risk of failing to develop the behaviors and skills that are essential for kindergarten and that children growing up under better economic conditions possess. In fact, fewer than half (48%) of poor children are school ready at age five.

Locally, 80% of third graders in areas targeted by Bright Starts for Brilliant Futures are not reading at grade level. Research shows that children who can’t read at grade level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school. This is because up until third grade, children are learning to read. After this, they are reading to learn. That means children who struggle to read in third grade are likely to fall further behind their peers for the rest of their years in school. 

United Way's response

Through the Bright Starts for Brilliant Futures Strategic Initiative, United Way works to ensure children enter school ready to learn and succeed through the early primary grades. United Way and it partners target funding, engage in advocacy, convene stakeholders and mobilize the caring power of community members. As a result of extensive research and community feedback, United Way’s collective power is invested in the most promising practices that will best ensure Capital Region children have the foundation to succeed. 

Impact on early learning

Phase 1 | Collaborations:

Strategy: United Way supports multi-sector collaborations that work together to collectively improve kindergarten readiness

  • 2,000 children assessed for kindergarten readiness, creating a baseline for community wide changes in curriculum, professional development and community support
  • Professional development for 150 early development teachers and staff on best practices
  • 75 caregivers attended classes to engage in their child’s education as “first teacher”

Funded Partners:

The Albany Promise Bigelow Corners Partnership (Schenectady)

Phase 2 | Home Visiting:

Strategy: United Way supports caseworkers who provide intense in-home support, referrals and education to increase parenting skills and engagement with their children

  • 98 percent of enrolled children received on-time immunizations and were enrolled with a medical provider
  • 98 percent of primary caregivers learned two or more child development concepts which led to better parenting

Funded Partners:

Healthy Families Rensselaer (St. Peters Health Partners) Healthy Schenectady Families (Cornell Cooperative Extention) Parson's Bright Starts Mental Health Counseling

Phase 3 | Quality Early Care and Education:

Strategy: United Way supports the QUALITYstarsNY early care rating and improvement system that offers training, coaching and funding to improve the safety and quality of learning environments for young children from low-income families.

  • Six childcare centers and eight family care providers in the QUALITYstarsNY program served 643 at-risk children in Troy.

Funded Partner:

Capital District Child Care Council

Help more Capital Region children build a strong foundation for learning.

Our community is home to children who face incredible barriers to achievement, simply because they were born into poverty. Watch a video that shows what's possible when we give young people a foundation for success. The video was created for a local United Way in another part of the country. Some of the programs are different, but our strategic approach is the same. See what's possible when a community comes together to bridge the achievement gap and help young people succeed.