Written by Dr. Kelly Kapitz & Karyn Powers
United Way of Marathon County has been bringing stakeholders together to support children and youth for decades. Under the leadership of the organization, the Marathon County Early Years Coalition and the Partnership for Youth have been working to provide resources and activities for ages 0 to 21 years. Never has this work been more important than during a pandemic.
COVID-19 has limited the ability of children, youth, and families to gather and participate in events. Many have looked for other resources to keep their kids connected, as well as socially and emotionally well. That’s where 2 of United Way of Marathon County’s coalitions come in…
Marathon County Early Years Coalition
The mission of the Marathon County Early Years Coalition is to support child and family well-being through a coordinated, county-wide effort that maximizes resources, focuses on evidence-based practices, and advocates for early childhood success.
A signature project of this coalition is RaiseGreat Kids.org, which provides child development resources to local families and promotes the following research-based message to give children the best possible start in life:
Talk. Sing. Read. Play.
Every child. Every day.
Find out how these 4 simple things can make a world of difference to a growing child in the video below.
“No Small Matter” Documentary Showing
The coalition has also worked closely with childcare providers to help connect families to quality infant and preschool care programs. In 2019, in collaboration with community partners, the coalition sponsored a public screening of the movie “No Small Matter,” which highlights the importance of early childhood education and investment. This free event was held to educate business leaders about the effect that a lack of quality childcare has on a city’s workforce development efforts. Given that Marathon County had lost 55% of its regulated childcare programs between 2011 and 2019, the coalition wanted to stress how limited access to quality childcare leads to worker shortages and an inability to attract and retain talented employees.
LENA Start Marathon County
Partnering with the Medical College of Wisconsin and Dr. Corrie Norrbom, the Early Years Coalition supported the LENA Start Marathon County program, which has brought skills and training to parents of numerous Marathon County children (ages birth to 32 months) to accelerate their language development. This program has continued during the pandemic via virtual Zoom meetings, with the next session beginning February 15, 2021. Classes are FREE and typically offered at multiple locations around Marathon County.
Regional Family-Friendly Workplace Policies Survey
In Spring of 2020, the Early Years Coalition partnered with area businesses and the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service (WIPPS) to conduct a regional family-friendly workplace survey. Little did the group know how important the information would prove to be when the pandemic hit. Businesses had to pivot to new methods of continuing their work while also adjusting to the new circumstances that many employees with families found themselves in. The coalition’s workgroup known as “Baby Business” continues to synthesize its findings to share with the business community.
Partnership for Youth Coalition
The mission of United Way of Marathon County’s Partnership for Youth is to create a collaborative system of services and funding that is community-based and cost-effective when addressing the strengths and needs of troubled and at-risk youth and their families. Workgroups within the coalition direct their efforts toward juvenile justice, youth employment, continuing education for providers, as well as strengthening partnerships with community agencies, families, and schools.
Youth Hiring & Career Fair
An annual Youth Hiring and Career Fair allows students and employers to make introductions, conduct interviews, and in many cases offer employment — all on the day of the event. Originally held at the Wausau Area Boys and Girls Club, the event outgrew that location and exceeded the workgroup’s expectations for success.
More than 1,200 students and nearly 50 employers came together at the D.C. Everest fieldhouse for the 2020 Youth Hiring and Career Fair last March, prior to the stay-at-home order to control the spread of COVID-19.
Work on the 2021 Hiring Fair continues, though it will be held as a virtual event. Learn more about this local Hiring Fair in the video below.
In the area of juvenile justice, one of the successes of the Partnership for Youth was the formation of a Diversion Pilot Program that created a Tiers of Support framework to integrate supportive services at and through schools working in close connection with community-based providers. This framework was piloted with both the Wausau and D.C. Everest School Districts and provided:
- Mental health counseling services on-site at schools
- Parent and student support specific to truant students
- Professional development for school staff
- Student development in the form of financial support for community opportunities
- Access to Boys and Girls Club truancy abatement programs
These services were provided at both the K–Grade 3 and high school levels.
Over the past 3 years, more than 425 individuals who work with youth have attended virtual and in-place training covering topics that included Helping Youth Navigate 2020, Restoring the Calm, and Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Others.
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Participating in either or both of these local coalitions is an excellent way to strengthen families and support youth in our county. For more information on how you can get involved, email or call (715-298-5707) Tara Glodowski at United Way of Marathon County.
Dr. Kelly Kapitz has been involved in rural education for over 30 years. She began her career as a school psychologist and later entered administration as a Director of Special Education and Pupil Services for the Marathon County Special Education Department. She received her PhD in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her dissertation and particular area of interest is transition services to students with disabilities. She has served on several state and local taskforces related to providing high-quality educational services to rural students. Dr. Kapitz serves on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services. She and her husband have three children and enjoy tending their apple orchard and traveling. Email Dr. Kelly Kapitz.
Recreation Superintendent | Wausau / Marathon County Parks, Recreation, & Forestry Department
Karyn Powers joined the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department in 1991. Prior to settling in Marathon County, she spent 5 years working for the Department of Defense in Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Services for the U.S. Navy in Iceland and the U.S. Army in South Korea. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Park and Recreation Administration and a master’s degree in Education. In addition to being the city/county Recreation Superintendent, she is a published poet and author. Karyn fell in love with Marathon County as a college senior when she interned here in 1979, then traveled halfway around the world to get back here as soon as was possible. Email Karyn Powers.
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