Conversations for Change Event Inspires United Way Giving Communities

By United Way of King County, on September 29, 2022 | In Emerging Leaders 365, Events, Helping Students Graduate, News, Racial Equity

United Way of King County recently launched a new quarterly series, Conversations for Change, which features discussions from United Way experts on local community issues and opportunities for you to help make a difference.

The series kicked off at United Way’s 2nd Avenue headquarters and focused on a key area of the organization’s work: helping students graduate. Those in attendance learned specifically about United Way’s Bridge to Finish program, which provides college students with resources, assistance and support so they can focus on graduating.

Among those in attendance were members of United Way’s giving communities, donor groups created to give people opportunities to connect with others that share similar passions while learning about issues affecting our county.

Attendees also learned firsthand about the impact of Bridge to Finish from Monica Trejo, a Bridge to Finish Benefits Hub coach at Green River college in Auburn. Trejo shared her inspiring story of going from overcoming obstacles as a single parent to become one of the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree. Benefits Hub, a one-stop shop for Bridge to Finish resources on college campuses, helped supply Monica with everything from hot meals to funding for college. After graduation, Trejo returned to Green River to pay forward the opportunities afforded her.

“As a coach, one the highlights of my first year in service was about a student that I assisted for over four months. This student reminded me a lot of myself—a single parent with a young child trying to relocate for safety and be closer to family,” said Trejo. “I supported this student in moving from North Dakota to Washington. Since they were on Section 8, finding a place within a certain frame was crucial. The student would get approved for places, but Section 8 would not approve due to strict inspection policies. We faced many barriers.”

“I was able to provide food resources, a temporary place for the student and their child to stay while we called many listings,” Trejo added. “When the student finally found her place, she emailed me and thanked me for everything that I had done for her. She even invited me to her graduation this past summer!”

The Conversations for Change event was kicked off by Philip Rueker, a Microsoft engineer and member of the Change Makers giving community. With a gift of $100 or more a month annually, Change Makers invest out of a sense of wanting to do good and improve their local community.

Said Rueker: “It was great to get a deeper understanding of how the Bridge to Finish program helps students stay on a path to graduate.

What really resonated with me about the Bridge to Finish program is that it’s not a one size fits all solution.

Ariella Varley, manager of people & development at Intercept Games and and Emerging Leaders 365 member

Indeed, attendees gained a deep understanding of and connection with United Way’s program areas and saw the impact of how their dollars are making a real difference in lives of college students.

“”What really resonated with me about the Bridge to Finish program is that it’s not a one size fits all solution,” said Ariella Varley, manager of people & development at Intercept Games and Emerging Leaders 365 committee member. Emerging Leaders are young professional donors who give $1 a day or more annually to launch a year of impact.

“Instead of providing students with what we [program administrators, community members, educators, donors, et cetera] think students need to be successful, United Way provides them with what they are actually asking for and trusts students to use the resources provided as they see fit,” Varley added. “While this may seem like common sense, I feel it’s quite progressive compared to other programs I’ve seen.”

Nathan Collins, a senior account manager at PACCAR and Emerging Leaders 365 member, agreed. “It was great seeing the hyper-local, tangible impact that this program has in aiding in the development of our communities,” Collins said. “This a direct way to address the surprising statistic of Washington being 44th nationally in graduation rates and allows students the freedom to direct their support to what they need most.”

Check our website for future Conversations for Change events. To learn more about our giving communities, click here.


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