Tony Penn: We Are Stronger United

Feb 24, 2023 | Cradle to Career Team, Leadership Council, News, Press

The definition of United as written in the Oxford English Dictionary is as follows,




joined together politically, for a common purpose, or by common feelings.


It’s a concept most if not all of us understand. From moving heavy furniture to playing on a team a united approach yields a more impactful result. Nature is full of beautiful examples of stronger united. From the teamwork of ants to the harmony of the beehive.

I’m sure some would scoff at the notion of united and politics being in the same definition let alone the same sentence today. However, contrary to perceptions we’re more united than we appear, at United Way of Tucson, we see it, feel it, and know it as together, we positively change lives every day.

The impact of your United Way is executed through an actively engaged community, uniting around our guiding principle of building a thriving community. Uniting people, ideas, and resources, one individual and one family at a time, results in a stronger community, which makes all of us, individually, stronger ourselves. Your United Way celebrated 100 years of serving Tucson and Southern Arizona throughout 2022, and as we enter the new year, we commence our second century of service in doing what we have always done – Uniting the community in service of others.

Our collective impact is strengthened by working with more than 80 non-prof­it agencies, the municipalities of three counties, dozens of local, regional, and national foundations and coali­tions, and hundreds of business and educational entities. This work involves breaking down silos and a united approach for the strongest possible results. 

Developing solutions for complex social challenges is not something a single entity can do alone. When we unite and combine resources, expertise, and data, meaningful connections are made.  Our community depends on the active engagement of our business, government, and non-profit partners to support programs and initiatives that promote high quality education, financial wellness, and healthy communities for everyone in Southern Arizona no matter the zip code you’re born in. A vibrant, healthy community benefits us all.

One example of Stronger United in action from the past year can be seen from our Cradle to Career (C2C) Partnership. C2C brings together a broad range of partners from across various sectors to develop and implement strategies that improve educational outcomes for our children.

This past year, C2C partners supported sixth grade educators in the Marana Unified School District by focusing on building teachers’ knowledge base to support their students in math. This included testing strategies, analyzing classroom data, and providing crucial professional development for the educators. This hands-on work directly led to district-wide change and the launch of a similar program in the Tucson Unified School District.

This critical improvement to our local education system was not accomplished in a bubble. It required cross-sector innovation, collaboration, and execution. The C2C Partnership is just one of the more than 20 active programs that are each a unique manifestation of being stronger united. We are thankful to our community for allowing us to have served nearly 260,000 individuals in 2022.

We all have something to contribute to being stronger united. Whether you’re able to volunteer your time, give of your talent, or donate your treasure, there’s a role and place for us all. When a community rallies around a united first approach, the local economy is healthier, the workforce is stronger, and opportunities more abundant.

As we enter our next century together, let’s all be mindful of those who have come before us, paving the way, and allowing us to build on their successes, multiplying their efforts, and doing ever better in the process.  We are grateful in this season of reflection and say thank you, Tucson, and Southern Arizona, for supporting your United Way and demonstrating the power of living Stronger United.


Tony Penn is the President and CEO of United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona, which serves as the anchor organization for the Cradle to Career Partnership.