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Quiet heroes make a big difference for the future of Southeastern Idaho

POCATELLO, ID, June 27, 2024 – At United Way of Southeastern Idaho (UWSEI), we believe that early learning is the key to lifelong success. While we are well-known for helping our community rally around nonprofits serving those in immediate crisis, six years ago, we dug a little deeper. We asked ourselves, "How can we leverage our belief in education to help build financial stability so fewer of our neighbors struggle to make ends meet each month?" 

Studies show that any secondary educational opportunity leads to a higher chance of economic success and a solid foundation for the future of families in Southeastern Idaho. This belief, combined with asking the right questions to local community members and the creation of community led collaboratives brought us back to the foundation of our future: our children. 

In a state where there is limited funding for early education and Kindergarten is not mandatory, our kids are falling behind. Only 20%-40% of Southeastern Idaho children enter kindergarten ready to learn. 44% of families and 80% of single moms in Southeastern Idaho live month to month, one $400 crisis away from potential homelessness. While some households qualify for free Head Start or childcare subsidies, many others fall through the cracks. 

Over the past six years, our grassroots efforts, funded through grants obtained by UWSEI, have led the American Falls community through strategic partnerships and collaborations, transforming the way the entire region prioritizes family engagement, preschool access, and kindergarten readiness. With the astounding improvements in the state assessed scores increasing from 20% proficient to 39% proficiency coming into kindergarten and then continuing to learn at a much faster pace than years past.  40% of children in our neighboring community received UWSEI scholarships, their success is undeniable. 

But what happens now? How does United Way expand high-quality preschool seats in a larger community like Pocatello and across Bannock County now that the startup grants have dissipated? How do we replicate the success we have seen in American Falls?

It is through quiet heroes like the Yost-Ashcroft Family, who recently donated $13,200 to scholarship six young learners in Bannock County, changing the trajectory of their young educational careers and lives. Denis Yost said, "I just want to level the playing field for a few kids so they can have the same starting line in the race of life." At UWSEI We envision that every 4- and 5-year-old begins school on an equal footing, their bright futures not dimmed by their family's economic struggles.  

Thank you to all of those who behind the scenes who volunteer their time for collaborations, the preschool teachers that want more for their students, the community stakeholders, local corporations, and individual donors, like Denis and his family, all coming together with the same goal: to see young people learn and thrive in their education to help our community grow and flourish for future generations.  

Together through the power of community we are creating educational rich environments for learning. The average annual preschool cost per student in Bannock County is $2,200. School readiness has little to do with intelligence and everything to do with exposure.  

Help us ensure every 4- and 5-year-old begins school ready to learn. Donate now to UWSEI and be a hero in a child's life:

Denis Yost and Don Ashcroft with United Way staff and members of the United Way executive board.


Tennille Call, Director of Education
United Way of Southeastern Idaho
(208) 232-1389