Acton Achievers Initiative to Improve Education Access for Salem Youth

PRESS RELEASE - 12/17/2015

SALEM, N.J. - Hundreds of children here will have improved access to technology and expanded learning opportunities through a new community-based education initiative launched Thursday by United Way of Salem County and the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation.

The “Acton Achievers” program would be the first of its kind in a community where more than 90 percent of children live below the poverty line and many families don’t have access to computers, Internet or smartphones, putting students at a learning disadvantage from an early age. Nearly a third of Salem students don’t graduate from high school.

The partnership kicked-off with the opening of a new computer lab at United Way of Salem County’s Campbell Center, on the corner of Grieves Parkway and Walnut Street in Salem, where the United Way serves more than 120 children a day. The state-of-the-art lab features Apple iMacs and HP computers, laptops and tablets, a SMARTboard and other hardware and software, all made possible by a $65,000 grant from the Acton foundation.

The next phase of the initiative will include after-school programming for K-12 students, a mentor system that engages hundreds of alumni to support high school juniors and seniors in preparing for and graduating from college, and providing easier access to college courses in Salem City itself.

“This initiative truly represents an amazing opportunity for the children of this community,” said Monique Chadband, President and CEO of United Way of Salem County. “I was once a child growing up in Salem City with very limited resources. Fortunately, I had parents who were engaged with my education, pushing me to achieve academically and a family support system. Many of the children that come through the doors of our community center are not so fortunate. They need someone to support their dreams and encourage academic achievement. United Way of Salem County is honored to do that in partnership with the Forman S. Acton Educational Foundation.”

The Acton foundation formed in October 2014, following the death earlier that year of Forman S. Acton, a Salem resident who became a pioneer in the fields of computer science and engineering. Acton was a Princeton University professor who believed passionately that his education led to his success, and he left $33 million to improve access to advanced education in his hometown. The foundation has already given away more than half a million dollars in college scholarships and grants that have paid for test prep, college counseling, teacher and administrator development, financial literacy training for families and much more.

“This is important progress in our mission to empower Salem’s youth to change the world,” said Kathryn Markovchick, president of the Acton foundation. “We’re honored to work with United Way to remove barriers and create pathways for students to not only get an education, but truly achieve greatness.”

To learn more about all the other elements of the program, to get your children involved or to volunteer for mentor support, visit FormanScholars.org or UnitedWayOfSalem.org.

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