Since 1923, United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) has provided area children, families, and seniors with community services and resources, building a reputation as the community’s fundraiser. In the past 22 years, however, UWSBC has transformed into a hybrid organization, building partnerships and delivering direct services to accomplish community-driven goals. UWSBC is one of just a handful of United Ways to take on these roles. Our mission statement is “Right here, right now, through the Power of Partnership, we are improving lives for children, families, seniors, and you!” Our vision is to ensure that every community member has a hopeful future.
Fun in the Sun (FITS) is a collaborative summer program that, with the support of more than 80 partners, provides comprehensive academic and enrichment curriculum and family support services to help families from low-resource neighborhoods reach their full potential. FITS serves 300 children and 200 parents at five South Santa Barbara County sites. During its daily, six-week session, FITS reduces summer learning loss and the achievement gap through educational, artistic, relational, and recreational activities. The program fosters a sense of community that gives children and families the sense of connectedness, skills, and resources they need to produce long-term behavioral and academic improvements.
Yessica first attended FITS in 3rd grade, hopeful for a summer of fun and new friends. She was surprised to find a true community in which she felt cared for, empowered, and motivated. That sense of community kept her returning through high school. Through FITS, Yessica planted a seed for a lasting love of learning and a new desire to attend college. With the support of FITS counselors who cheered her on and the resulting self-confidence she developed, Yessica began to see that college – and so much more – was all within her reach. Yessica applied to UCLA, her dream school. She was shocked to find herself accepted, but enrolled trusting that her abilities would help her navigate any adversity. After working two jobs while a full-time student, Yessica graduated from UCLA. She has now returned to Santa Barbara where she helps students navigate the college application process.
- Yessica A.