Nancy Vaughan column: Kids count on us all year

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Jul 28, 2019
 
Families can still apply online at www.onmywayprek.org for the second year of On My Way Pre-K in Madison County, a grant program that provides access to high-quality early learning for the year prior to kindergarten. Last year, 91 Madison County children were served by the program that is intended to give them a foundational experience to better transition to kindergarten.
 
Any family that is interested should go to the website to apply, even if they’re not sure that they qualify. On My Way Pre-K is entirely free to qualified families through state funding with a required match by a community sponsoring organization. United Way of Madison County, the local sponsor, provided more than $9,000 for the first year program plus a pilot program that began mid-way through the 2017-18 school year. Our funds represented five percent of the total cost of preschool for those 91 children, a good investment for our community, and essential assistance for families that have no way to pay the $200 or more per week cost for Pre-K.
 
On My Way Pre-K funds require the provider be a Level 3 or 4 on the state’s Paths to Quality (PTQ) rating system, and Madison County educators and community partners have worked hard to develop quality child care services. Any family in need of child care should check out https://www.in.gov/fssa/childcarefinder/ for information on childcare providers including PTQ ratings and locations of services across the state.
 
This year the program expands to all Indiana counties, although funding has not increased, so slots will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis until funds are depleted. Families must have household income at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level and parents working or enrolled in school or job training.
 
On My Way Pre-K is a good option for some households; however, there is more we can do to help all children succeed in school and in life. Reading to young children is one of the best ways to help them become lifelong learners. Through United Way of Madison County, volunteers can read to children at local child care centers. These “Pre-K Buddies” show children that people in our community care about them and their success.
 
Born Learning Connection works with volunteers and families in a variety of ways. Volunteers deliver materials to pre-natal classes, maintain the Born Learning Trails in parks around the county, assist with Blast Off to Kindergarten events, put together themed activity totes for families and caregivers, and more. To find out about volunteer opportunities, visit https://www.unitedwaymadisonco.org/volunteer-madison-county or call Georgeann Whitworth at 765-648-2172.
 
The materials and supplies are made possible by the generosity of United Way donors, but the volunteer time is the more valuable asset. Too many of our families are focused on daily survival, lacking the time and energy to spend on the activities that are so vital to early childhood development. The premise of Born Learning Connection is that children are natural learners. With the right resources and experiences, their futures and our community, will be brighter.
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