United Way National President Brian Gallagher officially launched the New Haven Success by 6 program in a speech yesterday at the New Haven Country Club. Yale offered a $100,000 grant and New Alliance Bank donated $300,000 to help start the initiative.

The program is designed to help increase the number of children entering pre-school in New Haven and the surrounding districts. Gallagher said that adults with an early childhood education have higher home ownership rates and lower crime rates.

“If we spend time with kids when they’re youngest, you can improve graduation rates and help the workforce of tomorrow,” Gallagher said.

Hart Caparulo, the president of United Way of Greater New Haven, said there is a strong correlation between education and economic circumstances.

“The average child begins school knowing 25,000-30,000 words, while children in low-income homes know around 5,000 words,” Caparulo said.

Currently, more than a third of all children do not enter pre-school and one out of every five students in New Haven drop out of school, Caparulo said.

The program is designed to increase the number of children in pre-school as well as to improve the quality of their education. By improving education, Gallagher said he expects there will also be economic improvement.

“The most successful communities I’ve worked with know how to link economic success with human success,” Gallagher said. “The essence of the United Way is about community and collective effort.”

There are presently 350 Success by 6 programs around the country. Gallagher said that in addition to expanding the number of programs, the United Way will be starting a $90 million, three-year ad campaign for early childhood development.

Gallagher also expressed his thanks to both Yale and the New Alliance Bank for their support of the program.

“What a spectacular demonstration of showing institutional support behind community leadership,” Gallagher said.

In addition to announcing the new program, Gallagher used the opportunity to outline a new model for the United Way organization. He said he would like to move away from a model focused on fundraising and to work on improving community-based initiatives.

Barbara Pearce, the chair of the United Way of Greater New Haven, said that she looks forward to the new organization.

“We are changing from the old paradigm to a new community model,” Pearce said. “It recommits us to work with the community we’re supporting.”

The evening also featured an award ceremony for Ben and Annie Kaplan, recipients of the 2004 Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award, given for exceptional volunteer work and philanthropy. The couple has spent many years working with children of every age since they became members of the United Way.

With the launch of the program, Caparulo said she hopes all members will continue their support of the United Way.

“If we are united in our efforts to address a serious community need, we will succeed,” Caparulo said. “It does not matter, how many grants we gain or how much money we raise, but how many children we touch and how many families we can help.”