Portland frequently makes national lists as one of the best places to live and work, but that’s not always true for everyone in our community. Opportunity gaps lead to some students struggling to succeed in school, hardworking families can’t afford housing and other basic necessities, and many of our fellow citizens suffer from preventable health problems. Fortunately, Thrive2027, an effort led by the United Way of Southern Maine, is a way for us to work together as a community to address these problems.

Xavier Botana is superintendent of the Portland Public Schools. He can be reached at [email protected]

United Way of Southern Maine recently awarded more than $10 million in grants to a variety of programs and innovative initiatives across southern Maine as a strategic investment in Thrive2027. That initiative, for which I serve as co-chairperson, is a collaborative community vision that centers on three 10-year goals for a measurably better community: giving students a strong start so they can succeed in school; ensuring all community members thrive, not just survive; and helping people live longer, better lives.

We at the Portland Public Schools are very grateful to be the recipient of some of this funding, which is made possible through the generous support of donors to United Way.

Talbot Community School, one of our district’s most diverse schools, has been granted a second-year $80,000 grant for academic and social support for students and families.

At Talbot, this funding will help the school to organize, coordinate and promote the assets of the entire community and provide academic enrichment services. The school will be able to continue to provide such after-school programming as choir, tutoring, drama, yoga and creative movement, and cooking classes for students throughout the year. As Talbot Principal Ann Hanna said, these programs enable students to engage in a variety of activities that support their academic, physical, social and emotional well-being in a safe environment, supported by positive adult and peer relationships. The overall effect will be to strengthen the entire Riverton community, where Talbot is located.

Portland Adult Education also will benefit from these grants, as it has been awarded nearly $88,000 to help more students attain their high school diplomas and go on to college. In addition, PAE will receive more than $40,000 for the Street Academy, a program that works to ensure homeless youth in Maine have the opportunity to thrive, grow and become productive community members through education and workforce training.

These grants are just the latest examples of the ways that United Way of Southern Maine helps our students and families succeed and prosper. Previous United Way funding has supported our outdoor education program; helped administer school vaccine clinics; and has seeded a new mobile makerspace – a recently launched STEM learning lab that will travel from school to school. United Way also has contributed to the Foundation for Portland Public Schools’ Families in Crisis Fund, which helps PPS families experiencing unemployment, illness, or other challenging situations so that their children can focus on learning.

We are fortunate to benefit from these resources, but please remember that United Way can’t provide them without the financial support of our community. It’s fall, which means that United Way’s annual workplace campaign is getting underway in the near future.

At the Portland Public Schools, we’ll soon be asking our staff members to donate to United Way as part of our annual appeal. I would like to ask the whole Portland community to consider joining me in giving to the 2022 United Way campaign. Collectively, our donations help students, families and other community members thrive, not just survive.

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