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Improving Equity in Southern Arizona

Engaging Our Community

United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona seeks to engage the entire community in our work without regard to race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, & expression, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, familial status or socio-economic status. That commitment will be reflected in all aspects of United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona’s work – service delivery, staffing, or volunteer participation.

Your United Way has been working to create a more equitable society for nearly 100 years by transforming individual lives and bringing long-lasting systemic change to our community by focusing on the key underlying issues. We recognize structural racism and other forms of oppression have contributed to persistent disparities which United Way of Tucson seeks to dismantle.

United Way of Tucson will strive to engage community members, especially those whose voices have traditionally been marginalized, as we work with residents, private and public partners to create solutions to ensure everyone has the chance to thrive. We commit to utilizing our community partnerships, assets, and investments to advocate for those whose voices have been silenced for too long as we strive towards building a more equitable Southern Arizona where we can all Live United.

We as an organization will also be working internally to educate staff on the key elements to promoting equity in our community by building our understanding of the core issues, building our organizational capacity to focus on equity, and building a supportive workplace for our staff that mirrors an inclusive culture. Below you will read about some of our most exciting programming that is already working to improve educational and life outcomes for children, adults, and older people.

United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona Programming for Equality

Community Impact Fund

United Way’s Community Impact Fund supports over 175,000 residents of Tucson and Southern Arizona from Birth to End-of-Life.

Through programming, partnerships, and collaboration we: Improve educational and life outcomes for children, youth, and young adults by advancing equity and excellence in education; Improve employment and financial security outcomes of adults for life-long well-being; Improve quality of living and dying for older people.

The Cradle to Career Partnership has applied an equity lens to its work of improving educational outcomes since its inception. C2C has disaggregated data by race and ethnicity in every measure for which data is available and shone the flashlight on where deep and persistent disparities persist over the last five years, something that not all communities have the courage to do. With data at the center of every meeting, we are supporting teachers, school administrators, and community leaders in taking measurable action that eliminates racial and ethnic disparities.

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While the disparities between white students and students of color are many and have persisted for many years, we are starting to see some improvements:

According to 2017 data from the Arizona Department of Education, the gap in 4-year high school graduation rates between white and Black students closed by 3.4 percentage points and 4.7 percentage points for Latino students since 2015 (the year C2C began).

According to 2018 data from the Arizona Department of Education, the racial disparity gap in 3rd-grade language arts proficiency for Black students closed by 4 percentage points and 3 percentage points for Latino students since 2015.

The Arizona End of Life Care Partnership (EOLCP) is a collaborative partnership, anchored at United Way, dedicated to creating a comprehensive network of end-of-life care support and resources in Tucson and Southern Arizona. Since its formation in 2017, the EOLCP has already become a national model and is now one of the largest funded partnerships of its kind in the U.S. The EOLCP has evolved into a network of organizations and individuals committed to promoting quality of life at every stage through education, support, sound policy and choices, ensuring that Tucson is a great place to live and end well.

Youth On The Rise

Youth on the Rise, the Opportunity Youth Re-Engagement Change Network for the Cradle to Career Partnership (C2C), is committed to amplifying youth voice, using data, and leveraging existing resources to provide Opportunity Youth quality education and career pathways that lead to economic and social stability. YOTR is focused on providing improving education and employment systems for all Opportunity Youth in Pima County.

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Opportunity Youth are those youth ages 16-24 who are currently on an educational or career pathway. Through a partnership with Equity Counts, YOTR has been able to increase its capacity for data collection and use, with a focus on using disaggregated information to promote equitable outcomes. YOTR and its Opportunity Youth-serving partners support continuous improvement by identifying gaps in services, barriers to accessing resources, and tailoring each youth’s re-engagement experience to best suit their needs.

The number of youth enrolled in the re-engagement center has continuously increased since being housed within Goodwill METRO beginning in September 2018, allowing a greater number of youth to be connected to vital services. Some of these services include educational opportunities for youth to obtain a secondary and post-secondary credential, along with employment. Through various community partnerships and the support of Goodwill METRO’s team, the number of youth in Pima County obtaining either their GED or high school diploma is steadily increasing.

The United Youth Leadership Council aims to actively incorporate a multitude of youth voices into conversations around policies, strategies, and solutions that affect young people in Pima County. The UYLC believes in community stewardship and advocacy, positive role-modeling, individual accountability, and authentic participation. The United Youth Leadership Council has been an integral part of Youth on the Rise in working to improve employment and educational systems for Pima County’s over 21,000 Opportunity Youth.

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The United Youth Leadership Council is committed to supporting, advising, and co-developing the work of Youth on the Rise in continuously improving employment and educational systems to better serve Opportunity Youth. Additionally, the UYLC is dedicated to improving the juvenile justice and child welfare systems to achieve positive outcomes for youth who are currently system involved.

Southern Arizona Family Support Alliance (FSA) is a broad collaboration of non-profit organizations, school district-based programs, and government agencies providing services to families with young and school-aged children. FSA’s mission is to unite for quality services that strengthen families with young children.

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They accomplish this by providing in-home parenting education, including regular home visits, child development education, support and education for teenage parents, providing connections to community resources families may need, providing parenting classes on child development, and providing free professional development for individuals providing services to families with young school-aged children. By providing access to educational and developmental services, FSA is able to build a level playing field for the families in need.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program through United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, in collaboration with Catholic Community Services and United Way of Northern Arizona, provides FREE, quality tax preparation from IRS-certified preparers to individuals and families earning up to $79,000 annually.

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This program helps taxpayers access all tax credits for which they are eligible – including the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which has been recognized as the single most powerful tool to lift children and families out of poverty and create equitable access to resources for families. Over 50% of taxpayers accessing the program are Latinx or Hispanic, and the program serves Native Americans across the Navajo and Hopi nations. Every year, United Way volunteers put millions of dollars in the pockets of their neighbors with a maximized refund and connect individuals and families to valuable financial and credit-building services.

In 2019, 450 VITA volunteers provided more than 18,000 hours of service through Arizona’s VITA Task Force agencies.


The ELDER Alliance is a broad collaboration of non-profit organizations, businesses, government agencies, community partners and age 50+ residents. Since 2010 our dedicated ELDER Alliance action teams have worked to establish a strong support system for the rapidly growing aging population.

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ELDER Alliance is committed to older people staying healthy longer, remaining active and involved, and maintaining maximum independence. The mission of the Elder Alliance is to be guided by the voices of elders, to advocate and design solutions that improve the quality of life for all.

It is our vision that older adults thrive, enjoy quality of life and play an active role in shaping a livable community for all ages in Pima County. This vision is achieved by listening to unique perspectives, celebrating diverse voices, and valuing the distinct contributions of all our partners.

The Alliance now has a membership of more than 130 individuals affiliated with over 70 organizations, as well as active community volunteers. Together we work to advocate and improve health, housing, transportation, working conditions, and end of life care for elders in Southern Arizona. In 2019, 7,704 seniors were served through the collective programs and 12,728 seniors were able to remain at home with supportive services from our 3,566 active older adult volunteers.

Siemer Family Stability Program

In 2013, United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona partnered with the Siemer Institute for Family Stability (SIFS) in a nation-wide movement to prevent homelessness of families with school-age children. The goal of this program is to support families in a financial crisis so their children can remain in the same school, giving them the best chance at receiving a quality education.

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The project creates change by addressing and resolving the issues that push families to the brink of homelessness. In 2019 the initiative was able to assist 47 families through their financial crisis. 41 improved their economic status, 47 obtained or kept safe and affordable housing, and only families had children who transferred schools in a smooth, nondisruptive manner. 34% of participants identify as Black/African American and 46% identify as Latinx or Hispanic.