Helping children and youth reach their potential in school and in the community.

United Way is actively creating lasting change in the community by positively impacting education in Olmsted County. When children and youth have strong, stable learning and growing environments, they can be more successful in achieving lifelong success and reaching their potential. United, we’re providing quality early childhood education, social-emotional learning opportunities, peer mentorship, home visits, books for children, school supplies, and changing systems to ensure future generations are on a path toward success.

Did you know...

  • Only 30% of Rochester children are fully ready for kindergarten in the areas of numeracy and literacy.
  • Literacy is a critical skill for school, work and life success. 42% of Olmsted County third graders do not read at grade level by the end of grade three.
  • Every $1 invested in out-of-school-time programs results in a $10.51 return with the benefits of improved school performance, reduced crime and welfare costs, and increased wages.

United Way and our community partners fight for:

  • Access to quality childcare and early education
  • School readiness
  • Social-emotional learning opportunities
  • Safe, supportive out-of-school environments
  • Educational equity

Education: United Way of Olmsted County

United Way’s Education Programs

Running Start for School 

United Way of Olmsted County's Running Start for School is a community-wide backpack and school supply drive to ensure that every child in our community is prepared to succeed in school. Each year, we provide needed supplies to more than 2,000 students enrolled in participating schools across Olmsted County. To achieve our goal, we rely on the community to get involved by donating, hosting a collection, volunteering, and encouraging others to help our children and youth reach their potential in school and the community. Learn more.


Imagination Library 

Imagination Library provides one book each month to over 6,000 children in Olmsted County from birth to age 5. These sturdy, colorful, age appropriate books are delivered directly to the child. Each book is selected for the developmental benefits it offers, helping to support early literacy. Learn more


Our Education Partnerships

Cradle 2 Career

As a network of public, private, and independent organizations, Cradle 2 Career facilitates, advances, and evolves a common agenda to ensure all children in our community have a clear path to economic prosperity through family, education, community support, and opportunities. United Way provides office space to the network, as well as administrative, data, and communication support.

Partner: Cradle 2 Career


Community Schools

A community school is both a place and a set of collective partnerships between Rochester Public Schools, United Way of Olmsted County, the individual school site, and other community resources. Community Schools organizes community resources to support student success in attendance, behavior, and academics at Gage Elementary, Riverside Elementary, and Rochester Alternative Learning Center. As a lead partner in the effort, United Way facilitates community resources to support student success.

Partner: Rochester Public Schools


GNCC Early Learning

GNCC Early Learning provides high-quality childcare and early education to a diverse group of Rochester area families. United Way funding helps provide scholarships for families facing financial barriers, so every child has equitable access to the best start in life.

Partner: Good News Children’s Center


Early Childhood Learning Center

ECLC provides a high-quality learning environment to prepare our youngest residents to be ready for school, with an emphasis on serving families living at or below the federal poverty level. The YMCA works in partnership with families and local agencies to support the development of healthy children.

Partner: YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities


Early Success

Early Success tuition assistance provides equitable access to a safe and nurturing environment that promotes the physical, social emotional, and intellectual development of young children of all cultural and economic backgrounds. For the past two years, every student has exited the program kindergarten ready.

Partner: Civic League Day Nursery


Scholarships and Family Education

Thrive builds community one family at a time, because everyone deserves to live in a community where all children are prepared for school and success in life. Scholarships provide equitable access to high-quality early childhood experiences, including a Family Resource Center where parents can connect with one another and with community resources.

Partner: Thrive Child Care and Family Resource Center


School Readiness

The School Readiness program provides preschool opportunities to prepare families and children for school success. School readiness offers benefits for families who may not be able to access quality early childhood educational opportunities on their own, including preschool scholarships, parent education, community referrals, and home visits. Partner preschools receive curriculum and assessment support.

Partner: Families First of Minnesota


Byron School Readiness

Byron School Readiness gives 3-5 year-old children access to preschool education, creating affordable education and childcare through tuition scholarships. Wrap-around care options ensure that children and families get the support they need to succeed.

Partner: Byron Public Schools


LEAD Mentorship

LEAD mentorship provides near-peer support for elementary students of color. Students build relationships with high school volunteers, connecting around activities that promote educational achievement. Mentors and mentees reap the benefits of positive connections, while mentees receive additional support to reach their potential in school. 

Partners: Family Service Rochester & Olmsted County



TreeHouse supports justice-involved youth who have experienced a generational cycle of incarceration. Peer support groups teach youth to identify and address the emotions behind our experiences. Research shows that positive peer support is a powerful protective factor. As a result of their peer connections, youth involved in TreeHouse report improved mental health, increased physical activity, and decreased school suspensions.

Partner: Next Chapter Ministries


Gage East Early Childhood Program

The Gage East Early Childhood program is a two-generation model working with homeless parents and young children to meet social, emotional, and developmental outcomes early on, when the chance of having a deep impact is the greatest. Developing early relationships with parents builds a strong foundation that promotes healthy brain development, builds social and emotional skills, and supports language and literacy development. Interventions including parents are as important as focusing on children themselves to achieve positive health outcomes for children and increase stability for the whole family.

Partner: Center City Housing