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Washtenaw United: Building A Path Out Of Poverty At Ypsilanti’s Foundations Preschool

Washtenaw United
David Fair
89.1 WEMU

It is said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  That is particularly true if you live near or below the poverty line.  Foundations Preschool has a mission to support at-risk children and their parents to create opportunities of prosperity.  As a non-profit, the school can’t do it alone.  That, too, takes a village.  In this week’s "Washtenaw United," you’ll hear from the school’s executive director, Sandy Williams, and from United Way of Washtenaw County "Volunteer of the Year" Jessie Schlanderer as Foundations Preschool gets set to celebrate it’s 85th anniversary. 

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Sandy Williams is the Executive Director of Foundations Preschool of Washtenaw County.  A former elementary school teacher with a degree from Eastern Michigan University, Sandy always felt limited to assist the children in her classroom when they clearly needed more than she could provide as a teacher.  After taking off some time to start her own family, Sandy went back to work at a local non-profit as a teacher consultant.  This was her "ah-ha" moment where she discovered the magic of charitable non-profit work and the impact it has on the families of Washtenaw County.  15 years later, she is still working for a charitable non-profit and deeply in love with what she does.

Jessie Schlanderer has been volunteering with United Way of Washtenaw County for over three years, and currently serves as the Committee Chair for their Young Leaders Society.  She also served on United Way’s Campaign Cabinet last year and was recently named Volunteer of the Year for 2018.  While she currently lives in South Lyon, Jessie has been a long-standing member of the Washtenaw community—she grew up in Dexter, graduated with an actuarial math degree from U of M, and is now a Financial Consultant with Wells Fargo Advisors in Ann Arbor.  Last year was her first year participating in United Way of Washtenaw’s National Day of Action, but she will be returning this year and in years to come.

Foundations Pre-School of Washtenaw County was established as Perry Nursery School in 1934.  This year it celebrates its 85th anniversary!  As the pioneers in early childhood care and education, their unwavering mission of preparing children from low-income homes for future academic and social success while providing parents opportunities for professional, personal, and parental growth has impacted thousands of families over the years.  In 1952, the preschool became a partner agency with United Way (then called Community Chest) and continues this partnership through today.

100% of the children that Foundations currently serve are considered "at risk."  This means that certain factors in their lives could prevent them from entering kindergarten ready for success.  Studies show that without a high-quality preschool program, children at-risk are more likely to enter kindergarten already two years behind their non-at-risk peers.

Because all tuition is based on family income, 68% of our operating income must come from outside funding sources.  Volunteers play a big role in ensuring funding goes directly to providing program support for the children and not used for tasks that volunteer power can provide.  Volunteers have done cleaning and repairs, gardening and tree-trimming, painting and picnics - all without fees and with smiles on their faces. United Way Day of Action provides the opportunity for these types of projects to occur and we could not be more grateful for their assistance!

UWWC-Foundations Preschool Partnership: United Way’s tagline is Give.  Advocate.  Volunteer.  We know that changing lives takes more than just dollars invested.  United Way connects individuals and groups to volunteer opportunities throughout the year, but National Day of Action on June 21 is one day to connect hundreds of volunteers to make an impact in one day, the longest day of the year.  Foundations Preschool is a long-time NDOA participant, hosting volunteers to make vital improvements to their grounds and building for the children that attend!   


United Way of Washtenaw County

National Day of Action Registration

Foundation Preschool

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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