Education Is Life’s ‘game-changer’
It was an odd statement that really made me think. Recently, one of the corporate leaders from Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance, a company that is very supportive of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, stood before many of her peers to talk about why she supports the work of the United Way. She eloquently shared a very personal story of her 5-year-old daughter and a gift she received at the baby shower just before her daughter was born. The gift was a children’s book and was given to her by her boss at the time and a close friend who is now deceased. She told us that her former boss wrote a note in the book that said, “Babies are a great way to start people.” Because I am, as my kids would say, Captain Obvious, I sat there listening and thought to myself, “Of course babies are a great way to start people ... it’s the only way. How else do people get started?” Clearly, that is not at all what this corporate leader was trying to say. Her thoughts, like the wisdom of her former boss, were much deeper than what was initially obvious. She went on to say that who people become, and the potential they reach in life, is profoundly influenced by how they were raised, starting right at birth. She then talked about the work of the United Way of Wyoming Valley and expressed appreciation for our mission because we are focused on helping the very youngest of our community’s children. “Babies are a great way to start people” does seem like an odd statement at first, but, it is spot on. I truly appreciated the understanding this mom and leader had, her moving and inspirational words, and the recognition she gave to the United Way for work we are now doing to help children and families. At the United Way of Wyoming Valley, children are truly at the core of our mission. There is not a day that goes by in our office that the word “possibility” is not used. We continue to believe that if we do all we can to help at-risk children and families now, it is possible that social service need in the future can be reduced, lives will improve, and the community we call home will become stronger. To improve the odds of success for children, our work is rooted in science and best practices. Science tells us that a child’s first five years of life are the most crucial for brain development. These early years are the learning years and it starts at birth. We invest more than $425,000 per year in programs that support the health and education of children under the age of six. We also believe that education is life’s “game-changer” and still the best bet our society can make to lift the next generation out of poverty. Education, however, doesn’t just start with learning your letters in kindergarten. It really needs to start long before that. Pediatricians and educators have long emphasized that children are born learning and parents are their child’s first and most important teachers. Eda J. LeShan, the America author, television host, and a ‘voice for children,’ once said, “A new baby is like the beginning of all things — wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.” Babies really are a great way to start people and I am grateful to all those parents, teachers, volunteers, organizations, and United Way donors for helping those babies along the way. BILL JONES is president and CEO at United Way of Wyoming Valley.