United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area’s R4K (Ready for Kindergarten) initiative secured funding through the System of Care with Herkimer County in the amount of $272,250 to sustain the program in two school districts and expand into three additional school districts. The program ensures children ages 0-5 are socially, emotionally and academically ready to succeed when they start kindergarten. United Way’s R4K model is the only one of its kind in the area, embedding Family School Navigators in local school districts to identify and support children ages 0-4 and their families so that they are prepared to enter Kindergarten.

United Way’s R4K began in 3 school districts and has expanded into additional school districts each year. With this latest funding and expansion, the program will now be in 11 out of 25 school districts throughout Herkimer County and Oneida Counties. The districts are CVA, Dolgeville, Frankfort-Schuyler, Herkimer, Little Falls, Town of Webb in Herkimer County and Holland Patent, Oriskany, Remsen, Rome and VVS in Oneida County.

“R4K powered by United Way is the only program in our region that identifies and creates a bridge between families and young children ages 0-4, resources, and their school districts so that by the time those children reach Kindergarten, they are socially, emotionally, and academically ready to learn,” says Erin Gutierrez Matt, Executive Director.

United Way’s R4K initiative works with an extensive list of local and regional partners such as SUNY Polytechnic, Siena College, local BOCES, government agencies, early childhood service providers, and CNY Health Homes Network. R4K has created and implemented a standardized Kindergarten Skills Inventory (KSI) that is now used across Oneida and Herkimer Counties to gauge readiness when a child enters school.
The data collected in 2018-2019 reflects that 20.7% of children were not ready for Kindergarten in Herkimer County and Oneida.

The total Herkimer County System of Care Expansion and Sustainability Grant award is for $989,447 each year for four years with the possibility for a fifth year. It is a federal grant overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

United Way proudly announces the individuals chosen as the new Family School Navigators: Amy Bladek for Benton Hall Academy in the Little Falls School District, Craig Benoit for Herkimer Elementary School and Brittany Brown for Fisher Elementary in the Central Valley School District. These individuals were interviewed by both United Way and the School District Administrators to ensure the best candidate was chosen to align with the culture of that specific district.

About United Way
Since 1921, United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area has been a human service leader in the Mohawk Valley, encouraging all community members to give, advocate and volunteer. Its mission is to mobilize the caring power of the Valley and Greater Utica area by connecting people, resources and ideas to create a thriving community. United Way funds area programs and initiatives addressing crucial community issues in the impact areas of health, education, financial stability and basic needs.
United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area helps thousands of individuals and families throughout Oneida and Herkimer Counties by bringing people and organizations together to solve our community’s challenges. As one of the area’s top funders, about 50 programs rely on United Way funding each year. United Way is a leader in innovation through projects and programs such as child care through the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative (ESPRI), Ready for Kindergarten and Free Tax Prep.

For information about United Way, to donate or to get involved visit www.unitedwayvgu.org, or call 315–733-4691.

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