Seven upstate United Ways team up for Born Learning

UPSTATE — Seven United Ways serving 10 Upstate counties launched a new effort this week to help maximize the early learning potential of young children.

Born Learning Upstate SC is a public engagement campaign that aims to help parents, caregivers and communities provide young children with quality learning opportunities. The campaign is built around research that shows children are “born learning,” with the first three years of a child’s life proven to be an especially critical time.

“This is when that brain is truly a sponge,” said Lisa Williams, board chair of United Way of Oconee County and a sergeant with the Seneca Police Department. “We as parents, grandparents, educators, police officers — all of us — must do what we can to ensure they’re soaking up the right things.”

The Born Learning campaign includes a new Web site,, which offers an extensive collection of resources for parents, easy games to play at home or around town, as well as a list of United Way-supported early education programs in each of the 10 Upstate counties.

“Another key component of the project is the installation of Born Learning Trails across the Upstate,” said Dr. Anne Hancock, board member of United Way of Greenwood and Abbeville County. “These trails include fun, engaging activities designed to boost language and literacy skills, and encourage children and their families to be active physically and mentally. There are currently 15 Born Learning Trails across the region. Trail locations can be found on the Born Learning Web site, or by calling 2-1-1, United Way’s 24-hour resource line.” The United Way collaborative is partnering with schools, libraries, child care programs, doctors’ offices, health clinics, the faith community, neighborhood centers, and United Way-funded programs to increase access to Born Learning materials and promote usage of

The campaign is one part of the United Ways’ overall work to help all children enter school on track developmentally and prepared to learn. While individual United Ways have long invested donor resources in early education programs in their communities, Born Learning Upstate SC represents the first joint effort between the seven United Ways serving the Upstate region.

“As individual United Ways, we recognize that there is great value in working together where our lines cross and our goals are the same,” said Carol Burdette, president of United Way of Anderson County. “We all share a commitment to helping children grow up healthy, ready for school, and prepared for a lifetime of success.”

United Way leaders from across the region have endorsed the campaign as an effective tool to improve the school readiness of young children in the Upstate.

“If teachers are the most important tools in our education system, then I think we can all agree the most important teachers we can have are our parents and other loved ones who care for our children,” said Dr. Russell Booker, superintendent of Spartanburg School District 7 and board chair of United Way of the Piedmont. “Children are learning constantly, right from birth. What they learn during those first five years before they enter our schools depends on the experiences they have each and every day—at home, at grandma’s house, at the child care center. This, I believe, is our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity.”

Parents and caregivers can go to the Web site or call 2-1-1 for local contacts to receive materials, resources and program information. The materials include a variety of user-friendly tools, tips and answers to help care for young children, fact sheets on a child’s developmental stages and brochures on how to make play educational.

“We know what happens in a child’s early years matters,” said Ted Hendry, president of United Way of Greenville County. “It’s up to all of us to make sure we take every opportunity to turn everyday moments into learning moments. Born Learning Upstate SC helps us do that.”

Born Learning Upstate SC Partners: United Way of Anderson County; United Way of Greenville County; United Way of Greenwood &
Abbeville Counties; United Way of Laurens County; United Way of Oconee County; United Way of Pickens County; United Way of the Piedmont (serving Spartanburg, Union and Cherokee counties)

Ten at the Top has provided critical leadership by serving as the initial convener of the seven Upstate United Ways and providing expertise in how to create effective regional partnerships.

As part of the commitment to supporting early development and school readiness initiatives for children, United Way of Greenville County’s Young Philanthropists group, comprised of leadership givers age 40 and under, has provided funding and ongoing volunteer support for the project.