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For thousands of families in our community, the school year has been top of mind. The stress of finding child care and an appropriate learning environment for their children has been overwhelming. In an effort to support local schools and students with their remote learning, United Way of Santa Barbara County has partnered with school districts to create, manage and fund the Learning & Enrichment Centers Collaborative, a broad child care and learning/enrichment model to provide additional support for our most vulnerable local children and families during this time of distance learning. This collaborative involves dozens of partner schools and youth-serving agencies, and local leaders in philanthropy. 

Due to overwhelming need, current efforts are being targeted to serve about 750-1,000 of the most vulnerable children/students from three high-need target populations: foster and homeless youth, students who qualify for free and reduced meals, and children of essential workers.

To date, United Way has secured $1.3 million for the Learning & Enrichment Centers. With the secured funds, United Way served 530 students from September through December 2020 and has relaunched the program in 2021 as school remain closed to in-person instruction.  Currently, 523 students are being served across the county in partnership with 9 school districts (Santa Barbara, Carpinteria, Goleta, Orcutt, Hope, Guadalupe, and Santa Maria Bonita) and 10 nonprofit organizations. Students are selected by a school district referral process developed by United Way and district representatives following the targeted priority list.  

  • Ann Jackson Foundation
  • Covid-19 Joint Response Effort
  • Hutton Parker Foundation
  • James S. Bower Foundation
  • Linked Foundation
  • Natalie Orfalea Foundation with Lou Buglioli
  • The Towbes Foundation
  • United Way of Santa Barbara County
  • Yardi
  • Anonymous Funder


  • Carpinteria Unified School District
  • Goleta Union School District
  • Guadalupe Union School District
  • Hope School District
  • Lompoc Unified School District
  • Orcutt Union School District
  • Santa Barbara Unified School District
  • Santa Maria Bonita School District
  • Santa Maria High School District
  • Boys and Girls Club of Mid Central Coast
  • Channel Islands YMCA
  • Girls Inc. of Carpinteria
  • Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara
  • Good Samaritan Shelter
  • Isla Vista Youth Project
  • People Self Help Housing
  • Police Activities League
  • Santa Maria YMCA
  • United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County

Created in response to several unmet needs and service gaps that have become apparent during school closures due to COVID-19, the Learning & Enrichment Centers support children and families through providing access to technology and internet, adult supervision and learning support, social/emotional skill development, access to food, enrichment/exercise activity, and more.

We recently heard from one of our school partners that one of their students, just 8 years old, was responsible for her own virtual learning and the learning of her two younger siblings. She had to make sure everyone was logging in at the right time and helping them with their work. She was so overwhelmed that she was not logging in for her own classes. Unfortunately, this circumstance is not unique. 

To alleviate some of the stress of distance learning, United Way is working with existing child care providers and youth-serving agencies to increase capacity at their facilities to provide care and educational support that will better help students with distance learning.