President and CEO, United Way of Central Massachusetts
You will be hard-pressed to find a place more culturally diverse than our city of Worcester, where our residents speak more than 60 languages and call 85 countries their birthplace. This fabric and history is what makes Worcester unique.Whether your family is a fifth-generation resident of Grafton Hill or a brand new American and Worcester resident recently arriving to seek economic opportunity, we all share the same commitment to strengthening our city. As the “Heart of the Commonwealth,” Worcester is known for its culture of innovation and creativity. We are able to thrive through our many coalitions and our shared vision for the growth of Worcester through community engagement.
No more is this commitment realized than in the efforts we have made to develop our next generation of civic and professional leaders. Here at United Way of Central Massachusetts we have embraced the spirit of neighborhood engagement present in Worcester’s DNA. During last month’s National Day of Service, we organized nearly 1200 individuals to complete 76 community service projects across the region. Business executives and students worked side by side to impact and improve our neighborhoods, truly demonstrating the outstanding and diverse leadership around us. United Way is happy to know that our work is part of a greater mission here in Worcester to ensure the children of this city have the opportunity to realize economic security.
In a city like Worcester, where 22% of individuals live in poverty and the median income is below the state average, it clear that we still have a long way to go to ensure financial security for every family. Here at United Way, we embrace Treasurer Goldberg’s belief that the history of economic mobility in this nation has always started with post-secondary education and training. That is why she created the SeedMA pilot program: a free 529 college savings account for all Worcester Public School kindergartners. She has committed $50 for each kindergarten student to cultivate a 529 college savings account and launch this generation’s story of economic mobility. Data shows that millennials aged 25 to 35 with college degrees earn 60 percent more and have an unemployment rate three times lower than those without a college education. With the help of our community, Treasurer Goldberg can get Worcester families closer to the American Dream of financial security — one college savings account at a time.
I encourage every community organization, business, academic institution, and citizen to do their part to make this program a success. Whether it be hosting a SeedMA enrollment session for kindergarten families, providing valuable information on savings and financial literacy, or just telling a friend or neighbor about the program, the engagement of all of us is critical to planting the seed of college aspiration in every child in Worcester.
In the coming months, the results of the Worcester SeedMA pilot program will create a framework for the Commonwealth to implement statewide. It is critical to the program’s success that the strong foundations of SeedMA are based on the continued engagement of Worcester organizations. Our leadership in this city will be the catalyst of growth for college savings accounts in Massachusetts, and the shining light that helped this generation achieve the American Dream.