United Way to focus on education for this year's campaign

The United Way touches lives throughout the community. But perhaps none so important as the youngest citizens enrolled in the success by 6 program. This year's 90th campaign is all about the children.

It's a new school year at Avondale Elementary School in Birmingham. For pre-k students in Michelle Diguglielmo's class, school is a new experience altogether. {}They're learning colors, numbers and ABC's. All building blocks of a solid education. Though most of her students are just four years old, Diguglielmo says she doesn't take her job lightly. {}"Pre-k is extremely important when you're laying the foundation for the later years. Everything that we do in the class, it's fun, it's about choice, and it just really helps the child," she said.{}Even with her passion for education, this class would not be here if not for the United Way of central Alabama, an organization that provides health and education services throughout the community. {}Diguglieamo's class is a product of United Way's Success by 6, an initiative dedicated to preparing students for grade school. {}United Way's CEO, Drew Langloh, says it's one of many programs the organization wants to bring to the forefront. {}"We know that a very significant time in a child's life is before they turn six as the brain is developing. And so we've invested in annually over fifty classrooms every year in both schools and daycare centers," said Langloh.Through Success By 6, United Way provides funding for teacher training, classroom supplies and design, and curriculum implementation. {}That is what Langloh wants people to keep in mind as the organization approaches its 90th annual United Way campaign. It's a fundraising drive."In which employees and individuals and corporations from all across our community raise funds to give to United Way to help invest in community programs and services," said Langloh.{}The campaign kicks off September 12th. In case you haven't guessed by now, this year's theme is education. {}"So as we move through this year, we're not only going to be asking folks for money, but we really want them to understand the idea that we're working together with lots of partners to bring great ideas like this pre-k classroom to scale," said Langloh.Langloh says the money raised for this and several other united way programs will have far-reaching benefits.

"Our economic development folks say they need to have kids and young people educated in the skills that they need for the jobs they have here in Alabama," he said.

Diguglielmo knows her students aren't thinking that far ahead just yet. {}But perhaps when they reach that phase of their lives they'll think back and remember what she was able to teach them with the help of united way. {}"What we do in our class is just make sure they know that they can go places. The doors are wide open. Whatever they want to do or become, they truly can become. And that's why we're trying to give them the opportunity, the experiences, so that everything can build on one another," she said.

The campaign kicks off{} Thursday at noon at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham and runs until the first week in December. This year's goal is top secret until then.