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Picture ALICE at age 5. ALICE is excited to be the room helper this week in her kindergarten classroom. She has worked very hard to sit quietly during story time, be kind to her friends, and listen to her teacher. ALICE is so sure that this is going to be her week to be selected as the helper that she doesn’t even care how much her tooth hurts. She is going to help anyway.

When Monday comes and ALICE’s teacher looks around the classroom to select a helper, ALICE isn’t there. ALICE doesn’t come back to class for two whole weeks. By the time her parents could afford to take ALICE to the dentist her problems were much worse than they thought and it took a while before ALICE could come back to class. When ALICE sits in her chair, she knows she is going to have to work really, really hard to get caught up to her classmates. She doesn’t have time to be the class helper.

By the time ALICE turns 7, she already knows how to take care of her younger siblings. When she gets home from school, she makes mac and cheese for dinner, does the dishes, and helps her brother with his homework. They all cuddle up in one bed together and fall asleep. With her mom working so many different jobs, ALICE knows she has to help out. Taking care of the family is the most important thing, they have to be a team. ALICE stays up late to work on her homework each night because someday she will be smart enough to go to college.

At 14 ALICE gets her first job – well, you know, other than babysitting. She helps out at a restaurant in the back after school. It’s enough to help her mom with groceries and things but she really wishes she could play on the soccer team. She knows she would be a star.

ALICE can’t believe she is going to graduate high school. There seemed like so many moments, like when her dad left or when her mom lost her job, where it made more sense to give up. But somehow she did it. Her teachers are so proud that they smile each time they see her in the hall. Her mom has been tearing up all week as she tells family and friends.

Our community is full of kids like ALICE. Fortunately, it is also full of dedicated organizations and individuals who are standing together to help build a brighter future. At United Way of Lane County, we know that working to create equitable opportunities for ALICE is a critical step toward building our community's future. Together, with partners in the nonprofit, government, business, and faith-based communities, we are working to make sure that the next generation of leaders has a chance to shine.

Find out more about ALICE here.

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