Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This is the foundation of the Women’s Leadership Council, a group supporting the goals and values of United Way of Seneca County (UWSC). UWSC focuses on three areas: Education, Income and Health with the idea that if these areas can improve then communities improve as well as individual lives.
The membership of the Council consists of nearly 100 women – and men – from different walks of life. Schools, social agencies and businesses are all represented on the Council. The main focus is to increase the high school graduation rates with the belief that if students graduate, they are more likely to improve their chances to acquire better jobs; with better jobs they can receive better health care and pay. In this manner, education is the foundation of improving income and health.
How does this Council set about improving education? They start early with The Red Book Shelves. In this program, organizations donate books for children of all ages and then they are placed on the Red Book Shelves sprinkled throughout the County. Families are encouraged to read to their children to build skills at a young age and to establish a bond between child and adult. Helpful Literacy hints are posted regularly on the WLC Facebook page.
From the SEARCH Institute, the Women’s Leadership Council has developed positive values for each month that parents, schools and any organization can reinforce with children, youth and families. These values help build children into responsible citizens by first allowing the children to find the best in themselves. The basic WLC belief is that if children learn to accept who they are, they will feel better about themselves and be less likely to bully others. Members are encouraged to post and share each Value of the Month.
As would be expected, schools are a main focus of the Council. In September the Council kicks off school Attendance Awareness by sending messages to schools, parents and posting on their Facebook page. Throughout the year, notes of thanks and encouragement are sent to teachers and staffs in all county schools districts. Fall is filled with tabling at school Open Houses and community events. In the Spring the Career Exploration Day: Career Conversations for 250 plus students with over 60 presenter tables showcasing 100+ careers is held encouraging students to Stay in school, graduate, and opportunities are in your future! In May, the Council recognizes teachers noting that teachers spend a great deal of time with children and can make a huge difference in their lives. June finds the Council focusing on the Summer Slide. They encourage children to continue reading throughout the summer so that their skills do not “slide” backwards. They work with local public libraries promoting the concept that children read a book a week to continue building on skills learned in school. Over the Summer Fill the Bus collections are held throughout the County so students can learn and teachers can teach when school reopens in September.
The theme of Kindness has taken root with special projects involving all of Seneca County. The Summer of Caring and The Good Deeds Food Pantry Project are recent examples with others to be developed.
All of these are worthy aspects of Education on which the Women’s Leadership Council continues to focus. BUT – They do not know if anyone has graduated from school because of anything they do. Most of us would not continue to work on this goal without hard statistics to show that these activities make a difference. These women and men, however, believe that they must do something to assist others. They believe that as a small group they are making a difference. They believe that if one child has improved their life with opportunities they have provided, then it is all worth it. This is a group of selfless women and men who work as a single unit to make Seneca County a better place to live for the future generations. This is a group that represents the true spirit of UWSC: “Advancing the common good for all.”