“I was the only person in my family who graduated high school, and I’m the first to graduate college.”

This is a tremendous moment for Glorimar Lara and her family. A moment she has dreamed of for many years. She stood in line, waiting for her turn, and then in front of her cheering family she received her diploma alongside hundreds of others.

She did it.

The story behind her graduation, and how she prevailed, makes this day even more special.

“I felt stuck, until I was able to get help from United Way, get everything done and here I am today!”

Glorimar’s youngest son Giovanni, now 7-years-old, was in United Way’s Early Head Start program. Fast forward four years, he’s finishing first grade and loving school and reading. Glorimar credits United Way’s efforts not only for her child’s success, but also her own.

“If it wasn’t for United Way, I wouldn’t be here.”

In between working and raising a family, Glorimar squeezed in time to study and plot a career path as a professional chef. Although it took her longer than she had planned, she stands there in blue her cap and gown beaming.

Through your support of United Way, you have invested in hundreds of children and parents who have benefited from Early Head Start.

Early Head Start provides child-development and family-centered services for children ages birth to three, as well as supports for parents to help them achieve their goals.

United Way manages this complex program in our region, which served a total of 150 infants, toddlers, and their families from New Haven, West Haven, and Hamden in 2016-2017. Using local dollars to leverage federal funds, United Way works with community partners to implement the program.

Early Head Start makes infant and toddler care affordable for low-income families.  Just as importantly, it also improves the quality of that care. Through Early Head Start, United Way has invested in infrastructure improvements like safe playgrounds, introduced research-tested curriculum, and offered professional development for teachers and staff at each site, raising the quality level of all classrooms at our partner programs. This creates a ripple effect—benefitting all children in the program, whether or not they have an Early Head Start subsidy.

The program also helps connect children and families to services in order to be and stay healthy—ensuring children are at their best and able to learn. The two-generational program focuses on the well-being of the child, as well as building a relationship with the family.

And as Glorimar embarks on her career in the food service industry, she knows that United Way and you are part of her success story.

“It’s like a family, it’s like an extended family,” said Glorimar.

“If it wasn’t for United Way, I wouldn’t be here.”