Daycare operator Hatte White gives me a tour of her facility. It's called His Place located on Telephone road. The center is part of a United Way program called Bright Beginnings. Sandra Nunez sends her 4 year old daughter Audrey there each day.
"They do color day on Wednesdays where they wear specific colors and she's like 'mom don't forget about color day or we're working on the letter R and this is the song that goes with R'."
Audrey didn't mind showing us what she learned.
There are 18 childcare centers in low income parts of Houston that are funded by the United way's Bright Beginnings program. Director White explained what they do.
"What they do is they provide training for us andÎ¾curriculum. They provide training for our leadership. They provide training for our staff. They provide appropriate equipment."
The goal is get the kids off to a good start academically. And for those who either don't get that good start or fall behind later, there's a mentoring program called the 5th ward enrichment program. This is an afterschool program for boys only. Charles Savage is the director.
"You challenge them you ask them questions. You let them know what's out there. You expose them to government you expose them to health issues you expose them to other youth who look like them who don't look like them. You expose. Expose."
It was the exposure to Washington D.C that made a difference for 17 year old Danzel Atkins.
"It was just a different experience for me, because I never had traveled before. And going out there for that week changed my whole perspective on different things like government to everyday life."
Atkins has been in the program for several years now and has become a mentor himself. He remembers talking to a fellow student and realizing he was making difference.
"He was like 'man, you're my role model'. And I took that to heart and I was like man, I'm just 15. How can I be somebody's role model? I'm looking up to other people and seeing what I do touched somebody' else's like. That touched me."
So what grade would the United Way give these two programs. This is Houston president Anna Babin
"I would think we'd get an A and let me tell you why. Last year, over 500 thousand children were touched by a United Way program. In this whole program of developing children and youth to their full potential and 82 percent of the kids that were in a United Way program have done better in school."
Babin says they're still shooting for an A plus, but they have lots of work to do to reach that. Bill Stamps KUHF- Houston Public Radio News.