Equipping children and youth with skills to thrive both socially and academically

The Challenge

Students from low-income or impoverished households are more likely to struggle with engagement in school. According to research, this engagement is critical for improving the academic outcomes of students and thus, their likelihood to become upwardly mobile.

– Lipman & Rivers, The California Association of School Psychologists (2008)

School engagement – how students feel about school, their interest in the material, and how they behave – is linked to grades, achievement, and future academic success.

the pathway to reaching their potential

Behavioral engagement - Students' actions

Students across grade levels who exhibit behavioral engagement, such as paying attention, completing homework, coming to class prepared, and participating in academic curricular activities achieve at higher levels than their less academically-engaged peers. These behaviors are especially important for students who face obstacles due to status risk factors such as coming from a low-income home or having a first language other than English.1 United Way is funding the EVSC Foundation’s pilot of an International Newcomer’s Academy which will connect English as a second language students  with mentors and paid internship opportunities so they can balance supporting their families and graduating school.

Cognitive engagement - Students' perceptions & beliefs

To succeed in school, students must believe that it will be instrumental in meeting their short-term or long-term goals. In addition, they must believe they are capable of achieving success. Students’ perceptions of themselves and their abilities are a key component of achievement motivation and an important precursor of student engagement.1 United Way is funding the expansion of the Live Y’ers, a highly-successful program of our long-time partner, YWCA of Evansville. This mentoring and STEM/Reading afterschool program will be expanded to serve low-income boys, prioritizing boys of color. 

Affective engagement - Students' feelings & belonging

There is substantial evidence showing or suggesting that sense of belonging influences achievement through its effects on [behavioral] engagement. Education researchers have proposed that a sense of membership in school settings serves a protective function that offsets the negative effects of social handicaps (e.g. poverty or a language other than English being spoken at home). United Way funds will enable Youth First to add Licensed Clinical Social Workers to two Warrick County middle schools, closing a gap in service between elementary and high school.

1Handbook of Student Engagement, Christenson, Reschly & Wylie (2012)


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