Move the Middle Initiative
     Nicole Bennett is Director of Education Initiatives for the United Way of Rock River Valley.  Nicole and Britney Lindgren, an achievement advocate, are the only two employees of Move the Middle. Their work is focused this year on sixth graders, plus the seventh graders who were in the program last school year. Next year, Move the Middle will also work with eighth graders who were in the first sixth grade group.
     "Move the Middle" is a bold initiative ensuring every middle schooler is on track to graduate.
     Did you know that 33% of our area 9th graders aren't on track to graduate. 
     Dropouts ...
          - are ineligible for 90% of the jobs in America
          - are twice as likely as graduates to live in poverty
          - are three and a half more times likely to be arrested
          - are eight times more likely to be incarcerated
     Why Middle School?
     The transition to middle school is a complex time for students, often associated with a decline in academic achievement, motivation, and self-perception. As children begin getting off track, whether academically, socially, or emotionally, it's highly unlikely they will ever recover without intervention.
    Research has shown that in order to alter the path of a student who is likely to become a dropout, you must identify that student and offer them assistance as early as in their middle school years.
    We are now in our third year of Move the Middle and in our first year since expanding into a second area middle school. Move the Middle, our Achievement Advocates, and our Early Warning Response System are now being utilized in Lincoln Middle School and RESA Middle School — serving 2,000 students and, thanks to your support, there's further expansion to come.
     United Way Achievement Advocates review students' ABCs — Attendance, Behavior, and Course performance. They also analyze their social, emotional, and learning data to determine off-track students.
     Based on that information, we can put the appropriate interventions in place to get students back on track. That includes working with other agencies to provides supports such as grief counseling, tutoring, anger management, and more.
     United Way is uniquely positioned to connect students and their families to the agencies and supports necessary to give them the opportunity to thrive and be successful.
     Nicole Bennett is Licensed Clinical Social Worker who serves as the Director of Education Initiatives at United Way of Rock River Valley.
     Nicole has over 13 years of experience working with youth who witness or are exposed to violence, sexual assault, child maltreatment, domestic violence, and trauma. Nicole has interned or been employed with The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Catholic Charities, Children's Home and Aid, Remedies Renewing Lives Domestic Violence Shelter, and The Carrie Lynn Children's Center - Rockford’s Children Advocacy Center.
     Nicole received her Master of Social Work degree, with a specialization in Children and Families, from Loyola University Chicago, her Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Illinois State University, and her Associate of Science Degree from Rock Valley College. Nicole is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the School Social Work Association of America.
     Nicole serves on the Operating Board of Alignment Rockford, a nonprofit working together to advance educational achievement and further educational attainment.
     This will be an interesting and informative program and one to invite a guest or prospective member to join us in Memorial Hall or via Zoom.
     Mark Baldwin will introduce our presenter and act as Rotary host.