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Community Schools

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The Barrier Beast

Little kids cannot control their home life. Unfortunately, many face barriers that are beyond their control. United Way’s community schools initiative works to remove The Barrier Beast for children in our community. 

Community Schools represent a strategy,  not a program. 

United Way’s community schools initiative brings a wide range of resources directly into the school to support students and their families, removing barriers to learning so children can be successful in school... and life!  Community Schools become hubs, rich with resources for students and their families.

Community-based organizations serve as Lead Partners in community schools, helping to mobilize community assets and coordinate resources, in cooperation with school staff. The hiring of each Director is made possible through Corporate Partner and funding partner support.


 Download United Way's Community Schools Brochure

Sign Up for Community Schools News

Meet the Community School Directors

Community Schools Partner List

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United Way has compiled a series of videos designed to help explain each element of the community schools model here in Erie County. Please watch them below!

Watch the full playlist
 Accompanying Documents 
McKinley Virtual Community School Tour


  • Bring resources into the school building that address the specific barriers preventing students from being successful. 
  • Are hubs rich with resources for students and their families.
  • Represent a strategy, not a program.

Community School Director and Personnel Vetting Process: All community school directors and community school personnel go through a rigorous interview and vetting process before they are hired. Due to the nature of this work, community school directors and community school personnel are required to obtain the same clearances and go through the same background checks as anyone who works in the public-school system and as required by Pennsylvania School Law. More information regarding this process


Community Schools rely on many partners, including school districts, social service organizations, businesses, the public sector, universities and more. Below are the key features that must exist for a successful Community School to be established. 


As the backbone organization, United Way of Erie County employs Community School Directors (CSDs), provides technical assistance, maintains alignment, drives impact, ensures clear communication and assures the work is being implemented with fidelity by all partners and meeting goals and measurements. Collaboration among multiple organizations is simple in theory, but complex in practice. That is why United Way serves as the backbone organization for each Community School located in Erie County.  


Commits to financial support for a minimum three-year cycle; designates one (or more) employee champion to serve as liaison between corporate partner and community school, including engaging with the Community School Director to identify and oversee other employees as volunteers.  


Community-based organization with direct connections to the school. Lead Partner provides guidance and resources identified as high need at the school but work with the CSD and United Way to secure additional resources to support school strategies.  


Works closely with the principal and Community School Leadership Team. Guides ongoing needs and resource assessment, developing the Action Plan that guides all the non-academic activities in the school. Ensures all programming is aligned with the needs identified in the Action Plan and implemented according to a partnership agreement. This position is employed by United Way to ensure fidelity to the Community School model. 


Every resource and program that is brought into the community school must be aligned with the Action Plan, developed by the Community School Director and United Way with input from partners. The Action Plan is updated regularly and ensures all activities in the school are aligned to address identified needs. Detailed strategies, action steps, outputs, outcomes, indicators, data sources and measurements are included for four domains: student, family, school and district. 

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United Way community schools level the playing field for students and families

There are 16 United Way community schools serving 8,000+ kids in four Erie County School Districts: Erie’s Public Schools, Girard School District, Iroquois School District and Union City School District.

East Middle School

1001 Atkins Street
Erie PA 16503

(814) 874-6400

Principal: Scherry Prater