Soon after the start of school, several elementary pupils having difficulty will have help from adult tutors-mentors in a new program called United to Learn, an initiative of United Way of Horry County with Horry County Schools.
Julia Nichols, recently named United Way marketing and communications coordinator, said United to Learn will start in Lakewood, Socastee and perhaps two more elementary buildings. After the pilot year, the program will expand to other buildings.
Nichols soon will recruit volunteers, starting with over 155 volunteers who participated in United to Read last year in Horry, Georgetown and Williamsburg County classrooms, in cooperation with Black River United Way. The second United to Read event will be on Nov. 9, again a partnership of the two United Way organizations.
United to Learn is an outgrowth of the first United to Read event, and the United Way of Horry County board of directors’ “emphasis on early childhood education.” Teachers and counselors will identify and prioritize children who need academic or behavioral help. The UWHC will recruit and vet volunteers. The number of volunteers recruited for specific schools drives the number of children who have one-on-one tutoring and mentoring.
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Volunteers will meet with youngsters “at least once a week for 30 to 45 minutes” during the school day. “It’s a relationship builder,” Nichols said. Kids Hope, a national program, provides mentoring for children. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, North Myrtle Beach, has had a Kids Hope program in Loris Elementary School for nine years, helping 30 to 40 children, depending on the number of volunteers available.
The software program Mobile Cause will be used to recruit volunteers for United to Learn as well as for Day of Caring, on Sept. 15, and United to Read in November. Mobile Cause also will be used for contributions to the fundraising campaign. “I think this will help us reach the next generation of donors,” Nichols said. Day of Caring is the traditional kickoff for the United Way campaign.
Nichols is a native of the area and a graduate of Myrtle Beach High School. She has a bachelor’s degree from College of Charleston and rode for the equestrian team. She worked seven years for Brickhouse Equestrian Center, home of the nonprofit Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding.