Community School Connections
Quarter 4 - 2017-2018
Building a stronger Erie, one school at a time.
United Way's community schools model is a strategy ( not a program ) for organizing school and community resources around student success. A community school is both a place and set of partnerships that help address health, wellness and the social needs of its students, families and the surrounding neighborhood. Schools become centers of the community, open to everyone, all day, every day, evenings and weekends.  Community Schools represent a strategy, not a program.
United Way's five community schools in place at Erie's Public Schools cumulatively make a HUGE impact on students and families!
Here's a quick look at some impressive stats April 4, 2018 - June 8, 2018
Through an Erie Community Foundation Shaping Tomorrow grant, walking school buses and safe routes to school will be coming to United Way’s community schools VERY soon! 

But…What is a walking school bus?

Communities nationwide are finding new ways to implement safe routes to school (SRTS) programs. SRTS programs improve safety conditions while also increasing physical activity and school attendance for kids. An example of a safe route to school is a walking school bus.

A walking school bus is a group of children that walk to and from school with one or more adults. You can similarly create a bicycle train where adults supervise kids riding their bikes to school. These groups can range from two or three families walking (or biking) together to a large group of kids and adults who meet at designated times and places each day. The group can even plan to stop at each child’s house to pick them up along the way. Because any parent has the ability to start this strategy in their neighborhood, these buses can be as simple or complex as you would like. But the good news doesn’t end here. With this idea comes many positives that aid in young students’ lives.

A walking school bus also aids in getting kids to school who are frequently absent because of unreliable transportation. Instead, walking with friends and trusted adults makes it easy for children to get to school on time! In addition, it is always a good idea for families to save on gas money by walking to school.

The number one reason parents typically do not let their children walk to school is because of safety concerns. However, the walking school bus concept which includes adult supervision eliminates these concerns for parents and caregivers. Plus, it is a great way to get kids to school in a healthy and fun way! It helps them become eager to learn and ready to succeed.
Pfeiffer-Burleigh Elementary School
contributed by Community School Director: Meghan Easter
Rising 5th grader reflects on favorite PB memories
If you visited Pfeiffer-Burleigh, a United Way community school recently, you may have met Zaden*, a rising 5th grader getting ready to move up to East Middle School next school year.

When reflecting on this past school year, Zaden stated he was really going to miss all of the teachers and staff next year. When thinking about his last year as a Pfeiffer-Burleigh Panther, he wanted to share some of his favorite memories.

Zaden talked about the 5th Grade Service Day and his role in the beautification of the school’s grounds. The service day included a visit from ServErie’s Executive Director, Marcus Atkinson and additional ServErie staff and volunteers. This visit helped our students better understand the purpose of service to others and ways they can give back to their community, their neighborhoods and their school. Zaden said that he “felt it was important that the students helped to make the school look good, because it is important to take care of your community.” He stated that he had never used mulch before and he had fun with his friends learning how to weed and take care of the school gardens. He was proud he could give back to the school community and is already thinking of other ways he can help around his neighborhood this summer.

Zaden also shared the fun the 5th grade class had on their field trip to Pittsburgh where the group visited the Carnegie Science Center and the Duquesne Incline. It was because of a significant donation from our Corporate Partner, Erie Insurance that our students were able to travel there and back. We are so fortunate for our partnership and their continued support allowing us to offer memorable experiences to our students and staff.

Our Corporate Partner, Erie Insurance , also helped host the 5th grade Move-Up Celebration at Pfeiffer-Burleigh, where Zaden stated “he was really going to miss coming to school at PB every day.”

In fact, he was going to miss his school so much that he registered to attend summer programming through the Y's Power Scholar's Academ y. Already this summer he has been able to receive academic support in literacy and math, as well as participate in music, art, and STEAM enrichment, swim lessons, and martial arts. Zaden said he “cannot wait to see what other fun things we get to do this summer.”

Special thanks to our Corporate Partner Erie Insurance, and our Community School Partners ServErie and the YMCA of Greater Erie.

* Student’s name changed for confidentiality
Corporate Partner
Lead Partner
Strong Vincent Middle School
contributed by Community School Director: Katrina Byrd
Strong Vincent Family Tech Night-Robotic Finger
Strong Vincent Middle School , a United Way Community School, hosted a FREE Family Tech Night on Tuesday, May 22 from 5pm-7pm, where the families built a Robotic Finger together.

The Kinnison Family had a blast building their Robotic Finger along with dad Rob, sister Willow, twin brothers Griffin and Garvin (SV students) and little brother Wyatt.

More than 25 parents and 100 students attended the event. Five members of The Number One Stunners Bikers Club were on hand to assist the families in building their Robotic Finger. A representative from Best Buy conducted an awareness presentation with the parents about the latest social media applications that have the potential to expose children to dangerous online predators. This event included a free dinner served by Dickey’s Barbecue Pit.
Corporate Partner
Lead Partner
Edison Elementary School
contributed by Community School Director: Tami Krzeszewski-Conway
Mom and daughter give back and succeed together
When you walk into Edison, a United Way community school , it is common place to see our mom and daughter duo, Destiny and Mackenzie Ganzer, wearing matching outfits and connecting with students, parents and staff members alike. 

Mackenzie is a 4th grade student at Edison and participates in most of the newly added programming. Mackenzie, at times, is hesitant to get involved but because of the encouragement and support of Destiny, Mackenzie participated in the quarter 4 pilot of after-school programming. She learned various yoga postures, made circuits with our GE friends, indulged in creating slime, and passed the basketball with the Erie Bayhawks . Mackenzie experienced many new firsts this year but that was only possible with the support of her mom and Edison’s most dedicated volunteer, Destiny. 

Destiny wants Mackenzie to be as engaged as possible, but understands that due the fact that Mackenzie is on the Autism spectrum, engagement without Destiny is much more challenging. So, Destiny decided to make Edison her second home so that she could support her daughter in both educational and social endeavors. Destiny volunteered more than 400 hours during this school year alone. She attends field trips, supports after-school programming, delivers Second Harvest food bags to classrooms, maintains the community garden and assists in canvassing the neighborhood for National Night Out. Destiny chooses to support numerous school needs so her daughter can be comforted by the thought that mom is present in the school. 

The relationships cultivated among Mackenzie, Destiny, students, parents and staff have created a beautiful intertwining of engagement, which is what makes Community Schools shine so brightly.
Corporate Partner
Lead Partner
McKinley Elementary
contributed by Community School Director: Sonia Rios
Twin 5th graders find joy in helping others
Yamen and Diaa are two friendly faces that welcome new students through the doors of McKinley Elementary, a United Way community school , on a regular basis.

Diaa declared, “I like to help!” Yamen confirmed, “Me too!” As Student Ambassadors, they give tours of the building and introduce their new peers to the nurse, secretary, counselor, behavior interventionist and other key staff members at the school. This helps relieve the stress that students typically feel when transitioning to a new school setting.

These young ambassadors find it personally rewarding to help bridge the communication gap by translating conversations and classroom instructions for Arabic-speaking students who are new Americans or English language learners. When the last bell of the day rings, Diaa and Yamen report to their Safety Patrol stations. They eagerly wait at the street corner ready to remind students how to cross the road safely. After their work is finished, they attend GEARING UP, the after school program that hosts the Police Athletic League (PAL) on Thursdays.

Diaa and Yamen recently had a long list of community school highlights to share that made their fifth grade school year fun. Young Artists Debut Orchestra sponsored a field trip to Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. Edinboro University’s Middle Level and Secondary Education Club and the Center for Faculty Excellence donated a Little Free Library and filled it with free reading material for all ages. Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Network , LORD Corporation , and Erie SeaWolves assisted with our Keep Erie Beautiful project.  Edinboro University’s Social Work students and International Institute contributed to our Diversity Day events.

United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) supplied every fifth grader with a new book, polo shirt, sweatshirt, a string bag (loaded with school supplies) and took part in two field trips (Pittsburgh and WLD Ranch). YLS Career Street speakers often go into classrooms to discuss their jobs and answer student questions. Both of these enthusiastic McKinley Elementary School Student Ambassadors want to become doctors, and they simultaneously exclaimed why: “Because my dad says it’s a good job!”
Corporate Partner
Lead Partner
Lead Service Provider
East Middle School
contributed by Community School Director: Jamilia Gates
A trip of a lifetime
Students from East Middle, a United Way community school attended the Walking in Black History trip with local E.F. Smith Quality of Life Learning Center. The students were chaperoned by Community School Director, Jamilia Gates and Community School Coordinator, Rachel Pierce.

The group was photographed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the King Center for Non-Violent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. The trip began in Birmingham, Alabama with a visit to the 16th Street Baptist church and ended with visiting historically black universities Spelman and Morehouse Colleges in Atlanta, Georgia. Eighty students were not only exposed to and further taught about Black history through the experience, but were also challenged to use the experience to grow as leaders.
Corporate Partner
Lead Partner
Community Schools in Erie County continue to grow! United Way of Erie County, a local nonprofit organization working to break the cycle of poverty in our region, seeks candidates for the following full-time positions.
Community School Director, Elk Valley Elementary
This Community School Director is employed by the Achievement Center and works in partnership with United Way of Erie County and Elk Valley Elementary in the Girard School District. Learn more and apply
Community School Director, Iroquois Elementary
This Community School Director is employed by United Way of Erie County and works in partnership with Penn State Behrend and Iroquois Elementary in the Iroquois School District. Learn more and apply
Learn more about United Way's community schools at