How much time does it take to change the way a system works? Or the way an organization works? Or even the way a single person works? From the onset, Building Our Future has taken the approach that Kenosha County is “program rich but system poor.” What this means is that we have a lot of people and programs doing great work, but, more often than not, they are doing their work separately. If they were able to work together, a much more powerful force could be created. In 2018, Building Our Future brought together 64 different organizations to form 3 networks and 62 individuals in our community engagement work to this point: creating a system that works for everyone in the county.
Outlined in our 2018 Annual Report, we’ve done much to lay a foundation and create the space for this work to happen. In Smart Beginnings, our network has done incredible work around increasing developmental screens (using the ASQ-3), increasing the number of screens over the year by 94%. Our Early Grade Reading network, though young, has created a multi-faceted strategy, combining landlords, older students, and encouraging a love for reading to expand out-of-school access to books. We’ve also worked closely with the United Way of Kenosha County to expand their tutoring program, Readers Are Leaders, to 3 more schools and 100 more students. Our College & Career Readiness work has created both an asset map and needs assessment in the county, and will see their factor exploration culminate in a meeting February 5th, wherein subject experts will convene and discuss factors that lead to high school truancy.
Our work has also supported efforts like the Lumina Talent Hub, a collaboration between Kenosha and Racine Counties on increasing Post-secondary Access and Success, and the Higher Education Regional Alliance (HERA), a confederation of post-secondary partners representing 96% of students in the M7 region.
There is, however, a long way to go. In spite of the great work our partners have done in the past year, our 3rd grade reading proficiency still sits at 39% and our 8th graders’ math proficiency is at 38%. In both subject areas, the percent of economically disadvantaged students who are proficient is about 30 percentage points fewer than their counterparts, and the proficiency gap between black and Hispanic students and their white counterparts ranges from 20-40 percentage points. These gaps perpetuate through high school completion, post-secondary enrollment and completion, employment, and average wages.
In 2019, our partnership will be looking to build on early success to reduce gaps delineated by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, so that every child can truly live up to their full potential. This includes implementing strategies, improving existing efforts, expanding our partners’ ability to use data, and even expanding our own team to emphasize community engagement.
How to Get Involved
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there is a projected increase in demand for registered nurses (RN's) nationally, from 2.7 million in 2014 to 3.2 million in 2024. Additionally, there is a projected shortage of RN's due to an increase of baby boomers needing medical care as they age. The AACN hopes to increase the percent of baccalaureate-prepared nurses in the workforce to 80%, yet are currently falling short of that: only 50% of nurses are at the baccalaureate or graduate level.
This is where Building Our Future can shine a light on the community need and on partners doing this work. If a junior- or senior-level student in the Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) is interested in eventually working in the medical field, taking advantage of KUSD’s coursework at Tremper or Indian Trail High Schools to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is a good start. Due to the crisis and shortage of qualified workers in the healthcare field, KUSD, in partnership with Gateway Technical College, is promoting the program as part of its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that help students earn a living wage. After the 3-credit course completion, there is a $125 exam fee, which for 2018-2019, Gateway has received a grant to cover. Once completing and passing the exam, students receive their CNA certification from the state of Wisconsin and can then apply for a Youth Apprenticeship.
Froedtert South, located in Kenosha County, offers plenty of opportunities for students to visit Froedtert’s hospital and simulation center to see if a career in the medical field might be right for them. It’s an interactive opportunity with a two-hour simulation-based learning experience offered the first Monday (9 – 11 a.m.) and Friday (Noon – 2 p.m.) of every month. The session includes an overview of health care careers and provides an opportunity to learn more with a customized experience, where you can select from different activities like pharmacy phun, sounds of your body, internal organ puzzle, and more.
Froedtert South, and other healthcare providers, have opportunities for entry-level CNAs once they have completed their certification. Froedtert’s program offers flexible scheduling, a variety of departments to focus in, and basic life support training. This is great for high school students who want to get a head start in their medical career. They also currently have internship opportunities in the following areas: Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Medical Laboratory Scientist, Finance, Information Services and Human Resources. Thinking about career-based learning experiences now can not only ensure students are on a path to earning a living wage after high school, but can also help Kenosha County meet its need for healthcare professionals.
Call To Action
Research has shown that third grade reading proficiency is a powerful predictor of later academic achievement. Children are learning to read until third grade, yet after, they are reading to learn. Because of the number of young children in our community who are below proficiency in reading, it’s important to support and participate in opportunities to help them reach their highest academic potential so they can succeed in school and life.
“My student was not into tutoring when we first started and by the end of it he was reading 6 books per session,” mentioned one tutor. “It was a struggle but I thought it was important to show him to not give up.” A committed and kind-hearted tutor, willing to give their time, can help make the difference in a child’s education.
From 2016-17 to 2017-18, the overall percent of third graders in our community who are grade-level proficient in reading dropped from 45% to 39%. To increase proficiency, Kenosha has a program that works with students who are below grade level. In 2017, United Way recruited 74 tutors for their Readers Are Leaders program. This year they have 200 tutors. Not only that, but the program has expanded from its flagship location at McKinley Elementary to now being available at Wilson Elementary, Brass Community School, and Forest Park Elementary for the 2018-2019 school year, all in Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD).
Community members who have been tutoring this year have also been given a lot of support in being a part of this program. “Having been a mentor with KUSD for years it was surprising how different Readers Are Leaders is,” Bunny Stoops, another tutor, said. “I really appreciated the training handouts and found them useful when I went to the school.”
Now that we’re into the new school year, United Way’s Readers Are Leaders are looking for additional motivated individuals who have 40 minutes to spare during the week to volunteer with our kindergarteners, making sure they have the best start in learning to read. Kindergarten tutors will start in February, but applications for kindergarten tutors will be available now until Friday, January 4th, 2019, with training on January 21st.
How To Get Involved