United Way of Central Florida

A Partnership with Polk County Schools and United Way of Central Florida


Alan H Turner II (Left; UWCF), Jacqueline Bowen (Middle; The School Board of Polk County) and Penny Borgia (Right; UWCF)

Students who drop out of school are more likely to be unemployed, uninsured, divorced and incarcerated. We can’t let that happen. Polk County Public Schools and United Way of Central Florida want every child to be given the best possible chance for success in school and in life.

United Ways and school districts partnered in 12 communities across the country to dramatically reduce school drop out rates with a program called Early Warning and Response System (EWRS). The United Way Worldwide invited sixteen United Ways to join the effort to improve the "ABC's" - Attendance, Behavior and Course grades - of struggling middle school students. With the support of Polk County Public Schools, United Way of Central Florida was one of three United Ways who ultimately qualified to join the national effort. EWRS is a system designed to detect and respond to the needs of struggling middle school students and their families. Without intervention, these students may not graduate.  

On July 27, 2016, United Way of Central Florida presented Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd with a check for $117,336 to expand the Early Warning Response System. 

The United Way funded the 2015 EWRS pilot program at Kathleen Middle School in Lakeland.  In the first year, 75 “extremely off track” students and their families received services including counseling, tutoring, mentoring, food assistance and more. Attendance, behavior and/or course grades improved for 53% of these at-risk students  - and they are all still on track to graduate. 

Additional funds raised in the 2015 United Way of Central Florida campaign will help to expand EWRS to include Shelley S. Boone Middle School in Haines City in 2016. The United Way and Polk County School Board hope to have EWRS “Success Coaches” in all eighteen middle schools over the next five years. 

If you would like to sponsor a middle school expansion or just learn more about EWRS, please contact Penny Borgia.  penny.borgia@uwcf.org


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