Boardwalk Academy

Get Involved | Have Your Voice Heard | Make A Difference

Are you an adult (18+) who has worked your way through financial challenges like any of the following?

Eviction or Homelessness  •   Relying on a food pantry to feed your family
Unemployment or underemployment that led to an unstable living situation   •   No access to quality, affordable childcare

Are you interested in using your experiences to help make decisions regarding local social support services?

Are you a natural problem solver?
Are you trusted and respected by your friends and neighbors because you keep everyone informed and inspired?
Are you a leader in your family or circle of friends?
Do you voluntarily connect people in your circles to resources?
Do you often speak on the behalf of others?

If so, you may be a perfect fit for Boardwalk Academy! 

Fall Session: Thursdays: September 21 - November 16 2023

 Spring 2024 Session Information Coming Soon.

Enrollment in this virtual cohort requires that each participant:

(1) Have experienced challenges associated with poverty, as aligned with United Way’s Agenda for Change. (2) Be familiar with the technology needed to participate in virtual sessions. Note:  A limited number of tablets with Wi-Fi hotspots are available for applicants accepted into the Fall 2023 Boardwalk Academy cohort, for the duration of the 9-week series. (3) Be available to actively engage, distraction free – in all virtual sessions.  This includes having childcare arranged for small children and confirming the ability to participate from a remote location that is free from background noise and any other distractions.


About Boardwalk Academy

Aligned with a community-wide commitment to strengthen diversity and inclusion efforts, United Way’s Boardwalk Academy builds the capacity of our community by developing and preparing Lived-Experience Experts – adults who have successfully navigated poverty-related, lived experiences – for leadership positions in our community.

The curriculum offered in this 9-week development series strengthens the interpersonal and professional communication skills of non-traditional community leaders, whose critical voices and perspectives are often absent from decision-making tables. By addressing the financial barriers that often prevent civic-minded, low-income adults from participating in activities that benefit our community, this incentivized initiative successfully attracts and motivates them to serve as confident, active and informed leaders across our Dane County community. 

Stipends of $25/hour may be available to participants. The application process is not included as part of the stipend process.

Our Spring 2023 Boardwalk Academy sessions will be held virtually on nine consecutive Thursday evenings from 5:00-7:00 pm. A celebratory completion ceremony will be held during the final session of the cohort.

Our Purpose

Boardwalk Academy is a key strategy in support of United Way of Dane County’s commitment to engage and involve diverse communities – especially those that are racially and ethnically diverse – in decision-making, leadership, and action to achieve equitable outcomes in Education, Income and Health. Through this program we:

Strengthen community capacity by offering barrier-free personal/professional development opportunities to members of a specific target audience, those having expressed an interest or demonstrated the potential to serve as in/formal community leaders.

Strengthen community capacity by supporting the placement of non-traditional leaders – those with the critical voices and perspectives that are commonly absent from decision-making tables – into volunteer and paid leadership positions across our community.

Support the collective commitment of organizations (businesses, public entities and nonprofit organizations) in our strategic efforts to strengthen diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Boardwalk helped me understand the importance of community. By sharing my story and actively listening to others, I now realize that the challenges I experienced are more common than I thought. Because of Boardwalk, I am no longer embarrassed by my story, but empowered by it.
- Tisha Butler, Fall 2021 Boardwalk Participant
Meeting with my Boardwalk cohort every week touched my life more deeply than I could have imagined. Every week, I felt more connected, stronger and more confident in my voice. As an alumna, I feel more prepared to advocate for people who have experienced similar challenges in their lives.
- Melanie De Jesus, Fall 2021 Boardwalk participant
United Way Boardwalk Academy helped me realize that my voice matters and has power. I learned the value of sharing my personal and professional experiences and how critical sharing and advocating are to ensuring that more people are on pathways out of poverty.
- Ursula Norwood, Fall 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way Boardwalk further clarified the impact that my sharing, speaking up and advocating for others has on my community. It exposed me to different tools and resources that can be used to bring about positive changes in my community.
- Lashonne Thomas, Fall 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way's Boardwalk Academy shined a light on my passion to serve as an advocate for my community. It has given me more tools to help others build the confidence they need to gain access to the supports needed to strengthen their families.
- Mya Whitson, Fall 2021 Boardwalk Participant
I strive for new and better opportunities to strengthen my family and community. I am committed to always doing my best to help educate and empower others to be compassionate, empathetic and hard-working members of society.
- Crystal Johnson, Fall 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way Boardwalk Academy was everything I needed. I learned how to ask tough questions and and not be afraid to speak up for my community.
- Aurelius Leslie, Spring 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way Boardwalk Academy has been an excellent way to connect with diverse people in my community in a meaningful way. It has been both empowering and refreshing.
- Shadayra Kilfoy Flores, Spring 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way Boardwalk Academy gave me more knowledge on how to help my community.
- Jamada Norris, Spring 2021 Boardwalk Participant.
Through United Way Boardwalk Academy, I have learned that perception and interpretation are not always the same. But more importantly, I learned that unless you ask the right questions you will always be in the dark, another form of bias.
- Lucius Woodson, Spring 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way Boardwalk Academy provided me with more knowledge on how to help my community and gain access to resources that actually make a difference for the community.
- Ngina Ali, Spring 2021 Boardwalk Participant
United Way Boardwalk Academy has set the tone for the type of leader I thought I wanted to be to the type of leader I am! The path to greatness is paved with amazing intentions and my skills to aid and assist others has been fine-tuned through Boardwalk Academy.
- Sarah Galinski, Spring 2021 Boardwalk Participant
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What we're up to

Completion ceremony

copy describing graduation and other things, link below to flikr album

virtual learning

maybe a quick story about how this year's class was done virtually, and how UWDC strives at all times to make participants safe

Stipend story

Explain stipend and why- this is an important thing to talk about.