The Benco Family Foundation is working with the United Way and Highlights to help kids keep up their studies with unique learning program tailored especially for pandemic times.


Health, safety, food security, shelter…the United Way seemed to cover it all in protecting the Wyoming Valley against the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. But the group quickly realized one integral part of the community population was left out of the plan: students. As COVID-19 shuttered schools and forced teaching to move online, the United Way grew concerned about the quality of education and lack of guidance children received while at home.

So the United Way turned to the Benco Family Foundation.


While finishing school from home, many students can become distracted, making it difficult to advance to the next grade level. Together, the United Way and the Benco Family Foundation have created a Summer Learning Workbook initiative to help students stay on top of their studies during the summer months. Students spending time outside a school environment risk losing critical academic skills and knowledge in a “summer slide.”


Chuck Cohen, Benco Dental’s Managing Director, believes the initiative aligns with the company’s values and long-term commitment to community-driven projects. “We are dedicated to helping the local schools deliver an outstanding educational experience to students in spite of the challenges of the pandemic,” he said.


Developed by Highlights, the award-winning children’s educational publisher located in

Northeastern Pennsylvania, the workbooks allow students to complete activities on their own without the assistance of parents. Geared towards students in kindergarten through second grade, the books cover math and language arts activities. And getting young students on the path to reading is crucial to their future success: a national study by the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading showed one in six children who do not read proficiently by the third grade will not graduate from high school on time. The exercises in the workbook will not only help students improve their math skills over the summer, but also give kids the tools to achieve reading success by the third grade.


Although there is no dental or oral healthcare component to the workbooks, the Benco Family Foundation continues to be a decades-long supporter of the United Way. “We believe the work [the United Way] is doing to bring children from poverty to possibility is critical,” said Benco Family Foundation Executive Director Rebecca Binder. “The Benco Family Foundation has always supported children in our community with a variety of educational programs from dental health to general education.”


The workbook program will not only give students confidence, but provide a strong educational foundation for success as they move through grade school. However, getting workbooks in the hands of students in school districts with the highest levels of poverty is no easy feat and cannot be done alone. Providing over 7,000 workbooks throughout 13 school districts in the Wyoming Valley community will cost upwards of $70,000. The current $14,000 raised is not enough to give every student the tools needed to make it to the next grade level. To put donations into perspective, just $100 provides workbooks for 10 students and $10,000 will supply a large school district for the summer months. The summer workbook will help students who have limited access to technology and educational resources stay engaged with schoolwork and move them ahead for the upcoming school year.


According to the United Way, an estimated 11,535 children under the age of 18 in the Wyoming Valley are living below the poverty line. The pandemic has continuously revealed inequalities, specifically in regard to educational opportunities. “These are difficult times, the next generation of students can not afford to fall behind,” Binder said. “We need to give students access to the resources they need to succeed.”


To learn more or donate to the United Way’s 2020 Summer Learning Workbook Initiative, visit