Front row: Andria Kahmann (left), Anne Kratz, Maryan Schall, Julie Karbula, Betty Noling, Emiko Hamill. Row 2: Anne Towbes Patty Bryant, Susan Hanna, Tina McEnroe, Susan Hersberger, Amber Ortiz. Row 3: Tamara Skov, Janet Garufis. Row 4: Jackie Inskeep, Val Montgomery, Suzanne Danielson, Tina Nelson. (Courtesy photo)

United Way of Santa Barbara County (UWSBC) introduced the new Santa Barbara group of Women United at a luncheon Monday, emphasizing the group’s role in supporting youth education programs.

Held at the Hotel Californian, the event was attended by some 150 women leaders from the community and others to learn more about the group.

Part of a national network, Women United will increase philanthropic support and spearhead advocacy efforts for targeted UWSBC K-12 educational initiatives, such as UWSBC’s Kindergarten Success Institute and United for Literacy.

“This network is made up of a diverse group of women with very different work experience, life experience, perspectives and political views,” said Susan Hersberger, local Women United volunteer chair.

“But we all have one thing in common, and that is that we are all here to support our young students and the future of Santa Barbara County,” she said.

Women United ensures more underserved children and families succeed during crucial early elementary school years and beyond.

Two-thirds of Santa Barbara County third-graders read below grade level. UWSBC’s educational programs provide supplemental support for these students to read at or above grade level.

Through Fun in the Sun, 100 percent of attendees measurably improved their reading skills over the summer.

The Santa Barbara Women United group consists of women who are community leaders committed to improving opportunities for local children and families.

Internationally, Women United has more than 70,000 members who work together to address the most critical needs of more than 165 communities across six countries, raising more than $1.5 billion over 13 years.

“Individually and collectively, women do so much to improve our community,” said Steve Ortiz, UWSBC president/CEO.

“Research shows that women tend to volunteer more of their time compared to men to drive community change. Women tend to advocate more when they believe in a cause. Women take action,” he said.

Keynote speakers included Tina McEnroe , founder of the McEnroe Reading & Language Arts Clinic in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at UCSB; and Marni McGee, nationally acclaimed children’s author.

Thanks go to lead sponsors Aera Energy, City National Bank, and Maryan Schall.

Other sponsors include American Riviera Bank, Bryant & Sons, Damitz, Brooks, Nightingale, Turner & Morrisset, Val and Bob Montgomery, Myriad Flowers, Anne Kratz and Tamara Skov, Santa Barbara Real Estate Brokerage, and Union Bank.

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— Angel Pacheco for United Way of Santa Barbara County.