Nancy Vaughan: Preschool program expands opportunity

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Apr 22, 2018

Twenty-five years ago, Robert Fulghum published a simple credo that became the bestseller, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." It upheld the essential elements for successfully living in a community: fairness, sharing, kindness, personal responsibility, respect.
 
Since then, countless studies have supported the importance of early learning and its long-term impact for individuals, families and communities.
 
United Way’s Born Learning Connection, launched more than a decade ago as an expansion of the foundational work of the CAPE (Community Alliance to Promote Education) grant, continues to support young children, their families and care providers in furnishing that foundation.
 
This year Madison County was included in the 20 Indiana counties offering On My Way Pre-K, a grant program that provides access to high-quality early learning for the year prior to kindergarten. Enrollment is now open for the Aug. 1 launch at www.onmywayprek.org for children living in these counties who are age 4 and will be entering kindergarten in 2019.
 
This is an opportunity for children from families that might not otherwise be able to provide it to have a foundational experience that prepares them for success in school and in life. There are requirements: family income at or below 127 percent of the federal poverty level; parents working or enrolled in school or job training; and selection of a qualified provider who has an opening.
 
The program is entirely free to families through funding provided by the state with a required match through the community sponsoring organization. United Way of Madison County (UWMC) is the local sponsor. UWMC submitted the application on behalf of Madison County educators and community partners that resulted in the program offering here. Now we are working with the local child care resource and referral provider, Family and Social Services Administration, and local early child care organizations to reach out to families and providers in order to maximize this opportunity across the county.
 
We hope to see as many as 200 children enrolled in the program, but the funds are dispersed across the 20 counties and when all available state funds are claimed, the program will close. We still need some more qualified providers and openings, and we need eligible families to apply. We also need assistance with the match funding, estimated at $35,000 annually for maximum capacity.
 
Spring is busy for UWMC and Born Learning. Blast Off to Kindergarten events are in full swing, planning for a May 10 Community Baby Shower at Elwood Elementary School is underway, and the annual Diaper Drive will launch soon. There are also opportunities for those who don’t have small children of their own, but would like to help build those foundations for others: Pre-K Buddies is a program of RSVP that places volunteers in early childhood classrooms to read and help young children with activities.
 
In addition, UWMC is organizing volunteer efforts to spruce up the Born Learning Trails in Pulaski, Jackson and Shadyside parks in Anderson, Brown Pool Park in Pendleton, Jefferson Oaks Park in Frankton, and Callaway Park in Elwood. Born Learning Trails feature nine outdoor games and learning opportunities that boost language skills and give families an opportunity to be active together. Shadyside and Callaway parks offer signage in both English and Spanish.
 
Successful kids contribute to successful communities. To get involved, call us at 765-643-7493
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