United Way works to support middle school engagement

United Way works to support middle school engagement

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It’s a tough time of life for any adolescent, but middle school attendance and success could shape kids’ futures, and keep them on track for life.

That’s why the United Way is placing a special focus on helping families help their kids.

Everything about middle school feels new, different and challenging.

“Everybody resonates with the understanding that middle school is a challenging time,” said United Way President and CEO James Taylor. “There’s chemical things happening within the body. There’s significant things going on and the requirements are changing.”

But United Way leaders say success in middle school could be critical for success throughout life - keeping students on track for on-time graduation and preparing them to continue their education after high school or secure a self-sustaining job.

This is why United Way has created an information guide for parents, and anyone involved in supporting a middle school student.

The guide aims to assess SOL scores, attack chronic absenteeism or suspension and observe patterns of improvement or concern.

Data obtained by United Way shows both Richmond and Petersburg lead the region in absenteeism and suspension or expulsion rates.

The organization also points to how critical it is for kids to form good relationships with caring adults.

“Knowing that they’re valued and loved can go a long way toward counteracting the messages they’re hearing from their peers or a grade above them,” said Taylor.

Taylor says it’s important parents and mentors consider what interests their kids, and look for interesting ways to relate to kids at their level.

For example, asking more about the music your kids are listening to and why they’re choosing it. You don’t have to like it to show an interest.

“It may help them understand some things that they’re not even thinking about themselves,” said Taylor.

He said it helps to keep communication lines open.

The website also has tools for middle school parents, including helpful hints, community dates and different organizations parents can get their students involved in that support middle school success.

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