Heart Of Florida United Way Invests $100,000 In City Year Orlando

Investment to help bridge learning and social-economic gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic

(L-R) Rebekah Ball, City Year Orlando; Jeff Hayward, President & CEO, Heart of Florida United Way; Derek Lee, Impact Manager, City Year Orlando; Joendie Bonilla, AmeriCorps Member, Team Lead at Memorial Middle School; Jared Billings, Executive Director, City Year Orlando.

ORLANDO – Just in time for the start of the 2022-2023 school year, Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW) has invested $100,000 in City Year Orlando.

A long-standing partner of HFUW, City Year Orlando engages its team of AmeriCorps members to mentor Orange County Public School students in need. They serve as success coaches within select schools, building relationships, which often result in students opening up, gaining confidence, and learning essential skills.

“We believe in City Year’s mission of fostering equitable access to education, and education is one of our four primary focus areas,” said Jeff Hayward, president and CEO of Heart of Florida United Way. “City Year is an organization committed to serving the students who need the most support right here in Central Florida. I know our investment will help to sustain this important work supporting Orange County schools.”

HFUW’s investment in City Year comes at a particularly crucial time, as schools and partner agencies, like City Year Orlando, work to address challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research continues to illuminate how the pandemic has resulted in significant learning loss, which is particularly true for the historically marginalized populations served by both City Year and United Way — like Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families.

A December 2021 report from McKinsey and Company found that students in majority Black schools are a full five months behind in math and reading compared to two months behind for majority white schools.

With the majority of City Year Orlando’s student population being African American/Black (63%) and from economically disadvantaged households (100%), these declines are unfortunately well-represented here in Orlando.

“When we think about a school in a school system and school structures, the gaps that often exist aren’t necessarily about the curriculum,” said Jarred Billings, executive director of City Year Orlando. “It’s about that relationship piece that we can add. So, our members and our AmeriCorps members go in and create relationships every single day. Throughout the pandemic, those challenges — the gaps between those who have access to those relationships and those who don’t — widen. So, we continue what has been our mission for 30 years of creating those relationships.”

Visit hfuw.org for more information about Heart of Florida United Way and to learn more about how to get involved.