About the Gulfport Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

United Way strives to improve the quality of life in South Mississippi by focusing on creating measurable outcomes in the areas of education, health and financial stability. Our goal is to create long-lasting changes that prevent problems from happening before they occur.  

United Way of South Mississippi (UWSM) provided the leadership for the City of Gulfport to become not only the first city in the state to become a member of the Grade Level Reading Network, but to become one of only 120 communities in the country to be a charter member of the national organization. 

  United Way of South Mississippi programs designed to increase early literacy include: 

  • PreK4Ward is a grant funded initiative that focuses on making high-quality, affordable preschool programs available in South Mississippi.  The program began in 2010 as a pilot program at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, through a collaboration of the City of Gulfport, LMDC, the Nourishing Place, and Gulfport School District.  In 2015 the UWSM absorbed the program into their body of work. Today United Way of South Mississippi administers 8 PreK4 classrooms of 20 students within the Harrison County School District and one classroom of 20 students in the Gulfport School District.  
  • Dolly Parton Imagination Library- UWSM serves as the Dolly Parton Library Local Champion. 
  • Excel By 5- UWSM is the fiscal agent for the Gulfport Excel by 5 and serves on the boards of the Gulfport, Biloxi and Picayune Excel by 5’s. 
  • Vroom: Vroom offers a smartphone app that allows parents to receive a daily reminder of teachable moments with their child. 

Through the Community Impact Grant program United Way of South Mississippi provides funding to Moore Community House’s Early Headstart program, Hancock Human Resources Preschool program, a specialized preschool program at The Gulf Coast Center for Non-Violence and to the Nourishing Place and Manna Ministries for after school tutoring programs both focused on grade level reading.  

 Gulfport has been named a Bright Spot in the CGLR Network and has been named a CGLR Pacesetter Community two times. The Gulfport Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is supported through afterschool programs, volunteer readers and tutoring programs. 


Julie Schmidt
Director of Community Impact and Education
United Way of South Mississippi