To celebrate “March is Reading Month,” members of United Way of Midland County’s Young Leaders United teamed up with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Great Lakes Bay Region to read with third-grade students at Pine River Elementary on Thursday, March 23rd.  Over 75 volunteers were paired with over 80 students to help instill a love of reading and improve reading skills.

“We were thrilled to be able to bring March is Reading Month back as a Young Leaders United event this year,” shared Katie Bell Pearce, Corporate Relationship Manager at United Way. “Our group is very passionate about United Way’s issue area Reading at Grade Level and this opportunity gave us a chance to make a direct impact. We know that grade level reading competency is critical, especially for third-graders, and are proud to have lent a hand in the classrooms at Pine River teaching a love of reading while also connecting directly with the students.”

Under their Youth Success pillar, an issue area United Way focuses on is Reading at Grade Level. In Midland County, 45% of third grade students are not reading at grade level and they are 75% more likely to not graduate from high school if they don’t catch up. In collaboration with their partner agencies and schools, United Way is striving to change those statistics. Through this Young Leaders United project, their volunteers impacted United Way’s goal of ensuring students are reading proficiently by third grade while also offering each student a positive adult mentor to connect with during the event.

United Way would like to thank their event sponsor Members First Credit Union. Their sponsorship not only provided a pizza lunch for volunteers and students, but more importantly a brand-new book, The Cool Bean, for each third-grade student to take home. This book was chosen because of its positive message about compassion, empathy and friendship in a little-kid-friendly way.

Pearce added that one of the students shared that they already have a copy of The Cool Bean at home but they were so excited to gift it to their neighbor so they could read it too.

“Our hope is that the students felt a sense of connection with our volunteers while also gaining important reading skills,” shared Emily Korn, Young Leaders United Chair. “This was our groups first large volunteer event since the pandemic and it was incredible to see so many community members lend their time to show up for the kids at Pine River. We are really excited to continue engaging our group in making an impact throughout the year.”

Young Leaders United is a group of young professionals dedicated to volunteerism and philanthropy. Members are compassionate and generous individuals and couples committed to change in our community by giving, advocating and volunteering.

The YLU Executive Council consists of members from many organizations throughout Midland including Dow, DuPont, Corteva, MyMichgian, Trinseo, Members First Credit Union, Three Rivers Corporation, PWC, Jolt Credit Union and Farm Bureau Insurance.

Each year, the Executive Council plans lunch and learns, volunteer events and socials to engage the full group in learning about community issues and providing opportunities to make a direct impact in Midland County. So far this year they’ve heard from United Way partner agencies and school districts about the COVID gap impacting our students and volunteered their time to read during the March is Reading Month event.

Their upcoming events are centered around United Way’s issue area Stable Housing. At their lunch and learn on April 12, exclusive to members, they will hear from experts and community leaders from Habitat for Humanity, Home to Stay, Midland Business Alliance and Affordable Housing Alliance on what’s being done to impact the Housing Crisis in Midland County.

On May 11th, the group will volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, helping to build a stable and affordable home for a family in Sanford. To register for this event visit

To learn more about Young Leaders United, their upcoming events or to get involved, reach out to Katie Bell Pearce at or visit