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New England Patriots Receiver Matthew Slater Announced as Local Member of United Way Team NFL

National campaign aims to cut drop out rate by recruiting one million education volunteers

United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley today announced wide receiver Matthew Slater as the New England Patriots member of United Way Team NFL.  The latest collaboration between United Way and the National Football League (NFL), the campaign teams football players with local United Way organizations to help reduce the number of high school dropouts in the United States by recruiting one million volunteers nationwide.  The announcement was made on Tuesday, September 18 at the Waltham Boys & Girls Club as part of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation's "Celebrate Volunteerism" initiative.

"I know firsthand what a difference an inspiring mentor can make to a child's education," Matthew Slater said. "So I'm really excited to be here with these kids and to work with United Way to encourage other fans to join the team and volunteer to become readers, tutors or mentors and make a difference in a young person's life."

Slater delivered over 200 books donated by Patriots fans to children at the Waltham Boys & Girls Club.  Slater spent time reading with the youngsters and talking about the importance of reading and education.  The books were donated by fans at the home opener against the Cardinals on September 16 as part of the Patriots' week-long focus on educational volunteerism in conjunction with the ongoing Celebrate Volunteerism campaign.

"Starting with good field position is just as important in education as it is in football, and we need a strong team effort to help every child reach the end zone," said Michael Durkin, President and CEO of United Way Mass Bay & Merrimack Valley.  "The NFL has been an outstanding partner of United Way for many years and we're excited to work with Matthew Slater and the Patriots to promote the importance of reading and volunteering in education."

Suggested local volunteer opportunities include:

  • Early Readers: United Way needs volunteers to read to children in our partner early childhood programs throughout the year. Third-grade reading levels are considered a direct indicator of whether children will succeed in school and graduate on time. Today, almost 40% of Massachusetts third graders are reading below grade-level. Among low income children, that number jumps to 60%. Early Readers is one way to help change this.
  • Youth Venture: United Way's Youth Venture program inspires and invests in teams of young people, ages 12-18, to start social projects or business ventures that create positive, lasting change in their communities. Teens enrolled in Youth Venture are matched with a group of volunteers who guide them in creating a business plan, learning presentation skills and shaping their ideas.
  • K-Ready Readers (Seaocast region, New Hampshire): United Way of the Greater Seacoast has created theK-Ready Reader volunteer program, partnering with early childhood education sites throughout Rockingham and Strafford Counties to help young children improve their literacy skills and develop a love for learning and success in school.

Volunteers can visit http://www.unitedway.org/team-nfl to pledge volunteer hours.  You can also follow @SpeakUnited on twitter or visit www.supportunitedway.org/volunteer to learn more about local volunteer opportunities with United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.

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About United Way of Massachusetts Bay & Merrimack Valley

One of the region's largest nonprofits, United Way's work ensures that children enter school ready to learn, youth stay engaged in school so they graduate with options for the future, and parents attain financial stability. No other single organization has the scope, expertise, and influence to bring together hundreds of human services agencies, government, businesses, private foundations and dedicated volunteers around a common vision of creating maximum impact and achieving long-lasting results.

About Celebrate Volunteerism

The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation is the 501(c)(3) non-profit entity created by the Kraft family to support charitable and philanthropic agencies throughout New England. This support comes in the form of direct grants and the donation of signed memorabilia to a variety of charitable causes, and from Patriots players who offer their direct support by appearing at charity functions throughout the year. The Foundation's primary goal is to support programs that aid the youth and families of New England while underscoring the Kraft family's deep commitment to philanthropic activities in the community. Over the past 18 years, the Foundation has made millions of dollars in donations to thousands of non-profit organizations throughout New England and has partnered with numerous community groups, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, the United Way, the Greater Boston Food Bank and a host of other New England charities. The Foundation actively supports non-profit groups focusing on health, education, youth fitness and community enrichment while also implementing its own programs in those areas of focus. In 2012, The Foundation's Celebrate Volunteerism initiative aims to recognize deserving volunteers and inspire Patriots fans to become lifelong volunteers. For more information about Celebrate Volunteerism visit www.patriots.com/community.