Through Be There’s Attendance Challenges, kids who have good attendance are able to participate in fun activities, like school dances, dress-up days, decorating classroom doors, and more.


Increasing attendance one day at a time

“Kids need our support, so they understand just how important it is to be at school every day.” – Michelle

Michelle and Marilyn have a passion for helping kids succeed. As part of a partnership between United Way’s Be There initiative and the Buhl Foundation’s One Northside initiative, Michelle and Marilyn help kids learn the importance of in school at Pittsburgh Public School’s Manchester K-8, and Allegheny Traditional Academy.

“United Way’s Be There helps kids understand how important it is to be in school every single day. I’m happy to be at the school as a resource for them,” Marilyn said.

Through this new effort, Marilyn and Michelle are in the two schools every day. Kids who are chronically absent – or missing two or more days a month – are part of the Be There ‘Buddy Project,’ an effort to establish positive relationships between students and staff to increase school attendance. The students check in with Marilyn and Michelle every morning, and if their attendance improves, they get rewarded or graduate out of the program.

But Michelle and Marilyn are more than just a check-in system. They’ve developed relationships and help solve some of the issues causing the kids’ absences. “If a kid is skipping school, there’s usually something deeper going on. Maybe there’s an issue at home, or the student is being bullied. We can identify the cause and help the family find resources to fix it before things get worse or they’re taken to truancy court,” Marilyn said.

“Having someone there every day focused entirely on the kids who are missing so much school has really made a difference. At both schools, we have seen attendance go up,” Michelle explained.

Outside of the ‘Buddy Project,’ Michelle and Marilyn offer attendance incentives for the whole school through United Way’s Be There Campaign. Kids who have perfect attendance throughout the month have the opportunity to attend a school dance, participate in a pizza party, or wear their favorite socks and shoes as opposed to their uniform one day.

Since starting in January of 2018, Michelle and Marilyn can see the difference in attendance at their schools. “The kids have started to understand that they can’t learn if they’re not here. Each kid is different, but they know we’re available to help them and we’re here waiting for them every day,” Michelle said.

To learn more about United Way’s Be There initiative, visit