TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Shawnee County was honored for its fourth Pacesetter, a national honor, by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading on Wednesday for making progress in education.
The campaign is a part of a national collaborative effort to ensure students from low-income families make it to their high school graduation.
Experts say a student who is not reading proficiently by third grade is 13 times more likely to drop out of high school.
"That's a lot of young people, so we have a lot of work to do," Kansas Enrichment Network's, Michael Lemon said. "It's not going to be done by just one person, so if not you than who, if not now, then when."
The campaign is led by United Way of Greater Topeka to help eliminate the barriers faced by children from low-income families. More than 400 communities are part of the national campaign and Shawnee County was one of 32 award recipients to receive this honor.
"We're also tying in out of school programming, summer being one of those," United Way of Greater Topeka, Jillian Fisher said. "We know low income students compared to their moderate and high level peers lose about 2 months of learning where there other peers are gaining learning in the summer."
Through a network of community organizations, the campaign is comprised of more than 20 cross-sector organizations to reduce gaps in readiness, absenteeism and summer learning loss.
"I know it's impactful, because some of the connections and some just come and talk to me about anything even behind close doors, it's really making a difference," USD 501 Family Coordinator, Veronica Byrd said.
The out-of-school programs are to enhance the students future beyond the classroom.
"So part of it is getting students not just to the next grade level and to graduation, but making sure they are well informed to make the decisions they for their life," Communities in Schools, Brandy Tofel said.
Former superintendent of 437 district, Dr. Brenda Dietrich says the programs not only impact grades, but also their health.
"We see significant results in their academic behavior as well as their emotional and social growth. You know their not participating in the kinds of things that they might be doing in the summer or even after school that would detract them from being good students," Dietrich said.
The campaign believes the students have a village that supports their future.
"People say children are our future, but I believe they are our here and now, because what we give them, what we say to them, what we instill into them is going to determine how they react and just going to the future," Byrd said.
You can help make a difference, donate here.