Inaugural Student United Way cohort celebrates conclusion of program, the first of its kind in New England

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut celebrated the conclusion of its first-ever Student United Way (SUW) cohort. Out of 42 applicants, who are all High School Juniors and Seniors, twenty were invited to join the program’s inaugural session. They represented nine area schools. It is the only Student United Way in New England.

“We’re excited to see this young group get so engaged in philanthropy through Student United Way,” said Dina Sears-Graves, President and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut. “The program not only builds a strong foundation for them, but it will benefit the community at large. In addition, we're impressed and grateful that such a fantastic group of students were part of it as this type of programming is very important to United Way because it falls under one of our key impact areas, Thriving Children."

The students had monthly sessions where they learned about the needs in New London County and visited nonprofit agencies with United Way Partner Programs that address our community’s most urgent challenges. They had numerous volunteer experiences including working at a United Way Mobile Food Pantry distribution, sorting clothing donations, and sorting and distributing toys at the Tommy Toy Fund.

Throughout the program, students learned about philanthropy first-hand by participating in a decision-making process in awarding a local organization a $2,500 grant. The group reviewed several nonprofits, had discussions, made site visits to the agencies, and made a final decision on where to award the funds. They announced at the Celebration event that Covenant Shelter of New London is the recipient.

At the Celebration, United Way team member Lisa Ann Curtis who oversees SUW noted of the students, “Some are college bound, some have sights on a career, and some are still thinking it through. There are both confident speakers and compassionate listeners. But each and every one was invited to join Student United Way because we believed they would be good for the program and the program would be good for them…we are so grateful for a truly wonderful group of young philanthropists.”

Students who successfully completed the program could:

  • Fulfill volunteer hour requirements;
  • Explore interests in philanthropy and careers at nonprofits;
  • Build valuable experience for job or school applications;
  • Receive a letter of recommendation;
  • Give back to their community; and
  • Earn eligibility for a $500 drawing, half of which the student can use for their future job or college pursuits and the other half going to their nonprofit charity of choice.

United Way of Southeastern Connecticut is a locally-based non-profit organization supporting a network of health and human services, programs, and initiatives in New London County that work together to help people in need and improve community conditions. Supported programs make an impact in four areas: Basic Needs; Community Wellness; Promoting Independence; and Thriving Children.

United Way operates the Gemma E. Moran United Way/Labor Food Center which provides food to a network of free emergency food programs in New London County and a Mobile Pantry, at no cost to those in need. United Way supports 2-1-1 Connecticut for free information and referral 24/7 and Project Warm-up for one-time, emergency heating assistance. Visit United Way online at