United to Learn, United to Launch

Dallas nonprofit supports public schools with volunteers, funds
Dallas ISD trustee Edwin Flores was on hand when United to Learn liaisons William and Cally Taylor welcomed Nathan Adam’s new principal, Maria Calixto, with a cookout.

At the beginning of every school year, for the past five years, United to Learn has helped Dallas ISD students and teachers get off to a good start by making sure they have the supplies they need.

The effort, called Learning Launch, isn’t just about pencils and paper, though.

The organization aims to make the ethos behind “a rising tide lifts all ships” a reality by providing additional tools — and volunteers — to make sure that students are ready to learn and teachers are ready to teach.

United to Learn president Carol Goglia, a Preston Hollow resident, called it heartening to see the volunteers coming from private schools like Parish Episcopal, St. Mark’s, and Hockaday, and public high schools like W.T. White, to work with children.

During the immediate aftermath of the 2019 tornado, many student volunteers showed up at Loos Field House to assist teachers as students from several of the elementary schools in the hardest-hit neighborhoods reported there for class.

“From a literacy perspective, we moved our tutoring — and we normally have hundreds of tutors in the schools from neighboring high schools — we used an online tutoring platform,” she explained.

This year, the need is greater and different, thanks to the pandemic. Some Dallas ISD schools experienced an 18% decrease in math skills and a 10% in literacy skills, with only 60% of students meeting state standards versus 75% in 2019.

“The last year and this year, there’s just a lot more need,” Goglia said. “Things like individualized supplies, because there can’t be much sharing, and additional digital supplies.

U2L steps in to fill the gaps that we cannot fill and ensures that we are equipped to bring the very best to our learning communities.

Phillip Potter

“And then more SEL (social and emotional learning) materials, because of the trauma that a lot of our students experience every day, but with this year of additional pandemic woes … it’s been important,” she added. “How can you self-regulate? How can you create a calm down corner?”

The organization has supplemented what math and science materials the district provides teachers and helped schools like Nathan Adams Elementary add leveled libraries to improve literacy outcomes.

And as the schools they partner with continue to navigate what will likely be another strange and eventful year, their principals and staff said the organization’s assistance is appreciated.

“United to Learn is the heart of grassroots education advocacy in Dallas,” said principal Phillip Potter at Walnut Hill Elementary. “With programs like Learning Launch, U2L steps in to fill the gaps that we cannot fill and ensures that we are equipped to bring the very best to our learning communities.

“Moreover, U2L has partnered with us to think of innovative ways to strengthen our instruction program and support learning in a way that is truly caring and innovative,” Potter said

Want to help?

Visit unitedtolearn.org/learninglaunch where donations of any amount before Sept. 24 will help fulfill teachers’ wish lists.

You can also give during North Texas Giving Day on Sept. 23 by clicking here.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, former Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. She's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy.

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