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United Way campaign kickoff emphasizes education

United Way campaign kickoff emphasizes education

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More than 200 community partners marked the formal kickoff of the annual United Way of Northern Arizona fundraising campaign Sept. 14 at a luncheon that also marked the debut of LAUNCH Flagstaff, a new community-wide education initiative.

The event was led by the 2016-17 Campaign Chairs, Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng and her husband, Tom Cheng, the Entrepreneur in Residence at the university’s W.A. Franke College of Business.

“Our goal of ‘Living United’ means that we in northern Arizona can leverage contributions and volunteerism through the United Way to create lasting change in our community in the areas of education, income stability and health,” said UWNA President and CEO Steve Peru.

It was education that took center stage during the event, including a video in which a Buzz Lightyear action figure marked with a rocket symbol represented the efforts by United Way and its agency partners to help launch dreams and impact futures through learning.

The keynote speakers at the event, Dr. Dan Kain and Dr. Robert Kelty, introduced a new community-wide initiative to provide all children and youth, regardless of background or socio-economic status, with a “cradle-to-career” world-class education.

LAUNCH Flagstaff goals are to see increases in the following:

  • The number of children entering kindergarten ready for school
  • The number of students reading at grade level at the end of the third grade
  • The number of 8th grade students performing at grade level in math
  • The number of students graduating from high school within four years; and
  • The number of students entering college or technical training after high school.

With major funding provided by the Arizona Community Foundation and the Wharton Foundation, The United Way will serve as the “backbone” organization in this new initiative and is currently recruiting for a partnership director for LAUNCH Flagstaff.

The United Way’s resource development goal, of which the community investment campaign is a substantial part, is $1.6 million.

The campaign got a “jump start” with the summer Pacesetter campaign raising approximately $200,000. The four-week Pacesetters Campaign, under the direction of Jim Wine and Zachary Meier, serves as an opportunity for businesses to set the tone of the campaign by announcing their results at the kick off event.

This year’s group of Pacesetter businesses, who engaged employees in creative ways to raise funds included: the Arizona Daily Sun, APS, Catholic Charities of Flagstaff; City of Flagstaff leadership team; Coconino County, The Guidance Center, Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona; Kinney Construction Services; Little America Hotel; Lowell Observatory; Northern Arizona University Civic Service Institute; Northern Arizona University President’s Council; Sonesta ES Suites, Tanning Time; United Way Northern Arizona Board of Directors and United Way Northern Arizona Staff.

In addition to the Pacesetters, the Summit Society campaign, which is being co-chaired by Erin and Andy Bertelsen, hopes to raise over $600,000. Summit Society donors are individuals and families that give $500 or more during the campaign. These individuals and families were recently honored at an evening reception held at the Pepsi Amphitheater which included a kid’s zone provided by the YMCA of Flagstaff.

For more information or to make a donation, visit


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