By Tracy Nilles, Vice President, Global Corporate Leadership at United Way Worldwide

October 25 marked the launch of the United Way Campaign for the Common Good—a national effort to mobilize millions of people and organizations across the country to take action and improve the education, income and health of our communities. The campaign kicked off with a focus on education, and an ambitious goal to cut the high school dropout rate in half.

As a leader in the education space, Microsoft was invited to share insights on a panel for a community conversation on education. Allyson Knox, Academic Program Manager, National Partnerships, Partners in Learning at Microsoft joined parents, teachers, students, education experts and United Way for a candid at into education issues in our communities.

During a breakout group discussion, Microsoft’s Donna Woodall, Citizenship Director; US Public Sector – Washington DC, asked a student what sorts of things Microsoft could bring to her school to improve her educational experience. “Don’t bother,” the girl responded, “it would get messed up.” She went on to talk about the environment at her school and how destructive and unsafe it can be. “If it could be different,” she said, “I would want it to be different.” Later she shared that she doesn’t get a lot of support at home: “I live in a house where no one went to college, but I want to go to college.”

Like this young girl aptly described—there is more to addressing educational issues in our communities than donating books or computers. United Way is engaging diverse people, organizations and companies—like Microsoft—to develop solutions by focusing on creating supportive communities, effective schools and strong families. We can all be a part of the change and help make our schools a better place for our kids. This will result in stronger communities for us all.

United Way is recruiting people and organizations who bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to help young people reach their full potential. LIVE UNITED by helping America's youth succeed in school and life: pledge to support education, and help cut the drop out rate in half by 2018.

Partners around the world connected through Microsoft technology
The education panel was held in the newly dedicated Mary M. Gates Learning Center at United Way Worldwide in Alexandria, VA. Bill Gates, Sr., Bill Gates, III, Libby Gates, major donors and United Ways across the globe came together to open the Mary M. Gates Learning Center on October 13. The Center, made possible through a generous gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was built on Mary’s belief that learning, sharing and working together will make the world a better place. 

 
Parents, teachers, students, nonprofits organizations and more gathered together for the first national community conversation to discuss what they want in their community during breakout groups.

Other major contributions for the Mary M. Gates Learning Center included a generous donation of technology and software from Microsoft Corporation. The Center’s technology offers real-time access to ideas and relationships, and can connect United Ways around the world for learning and best practice sharing. The dedication event showcased this state-of-the-art technology by connecting virtually with United Ways in Mumbai, India; San Francisco, California; and Vaal Region, South Africa to explore addressing financial stability issues in their communities.

“My mother would be so happy to know about this Center,” said Bill Gates. “More than anything else, it was my mother’s infectious enthusiasm for United Way that made it a family tradition, and that made giving one of the most rewarding and fun parts of my life.”

Tracy Nilles bring over 18 years of United Way experience to her role leading the Global Corporate Leadership (GCL) program at United Way Worldwide. Tracy and her 25-person team ensure that the 120+ corporations in the GCL program receive the strategies, resources and support they need to achieve the greatest philanthropic impact locally, nationally and around the world.  Tracy has a Masters degree in Organizational Communication from Western Kentucky University and a Bachelors degree in Speech Communications and Public Relations from Bloomsburg University. Tracy is an avid golfer and volunteer and serves as an adjunct faculty member at Northern Virginia Community College teaching Public Speaking.