Emily & Wendy’s Story

Emily struggled at school, but a United Way program helped her get on track.

“I came home from school one day and my mom was in the kitchen. I looked in the living room and noticed our couch was missing. I looked at my mom and said, ‘What happened to the sofa?’ She said, ‘You should ask your dad.’

It turned out that my dad had learned about a parent in our school who had fled an abusive situation in her home. She and her kids had found a new place to live, but they didn’t have any furniture. So he came home and loaded up our sofa—one of those big sectionals—put it in the back of the truck, and took it over to her place.

This wasn’t the only time something went missing from our house because my dad was helping someone. That story stayed with me throughout the years. My dad’s example sent an important message to me at a young age: When people need help, we help them. That’s the house I grew up in.

I first became involved with United Way through a campaign in my workplace. I was looking for different ways to get involved in the community and met with a United Way staff member. She said, ‘I know exactly what I’m going to connect you with.’

I went to an initial meeting and heard a couple of amazing speakers talk about the work United Way was doing in the community, including some of the work they were doing with vulnerable youth to help them finish high school. I thought, ‘This is exactly the room I need to be in right now.’

Providing support to young people—through things like food programs and counselling—allows them to focus on school, and that is such an important step. Completing high school is a big gateway into so many other things in life. That support is crucial to help kids realize their potential.

If we can unleash that untapped potential in our community, the world’s going to change. All it takes is, ‘Yeah, I’m in’.”

– Wendy, United Way donor


“When I was in grade 11, I had a big falling out with my family and ended up moving out. After I left my family home, I felt really overwhelmed by having to manage school and life. Just getting to school was a challenge on its own, even without the homework. And there was a lot of homework because I was in advanced placement classes. I was falling behind. I would get the bare minimum done and I missed so many assignments. My attendance record was bad.
Then I connected with a United Way high school completion program and the staff really motivated me to want to be there. They were people I needed to be accountable to. I knew that if I didn’t come to school and my marks started falling, or if they thought I wasn’t going to graduate, they’d notice: ‘Hey, what’s going on? Why aren’t you getting things done? We know you can do this.’

I want to be a role model for my two younger brothers. I want to give them hope and make them believe that, even if things seem a little challenging now, they can graduate. With the help of people who can give them a safe space to work on their homework and the guidance that they need to understand their schoolwork, they can follow their dreams. They can graduate and go as far as they want to.
And I want young women to understand that as scary as life may be and as many obstacles as we face, if they really believe they can succeed and they have the resources around them to make success possible, there’s no way they’re going to fail.

I’ve had to take a complete detour, and I’ve had to do a lot of things differently to get to where I want to be. It’s been very challenging, but it’s been definitely worth it.”

– Emily, United Way program participant