$40 million initiative to boost young kids

$40 million initiative to boost young kids
July 30
00:00 2015

In above photo: Children from Winston-Salem State University’s Head Start program enjoy Dylan Rowe as he entertains them by making animals from balloons on Tuesday, July 28, at the Carver School Road Library branch. The Great Expectations initiative was launched at the library minutes earlier. (Photo by Donna Rogers )

With those who will gain the help that the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust will give – young children – playing in the background, the Trust launched its decade-long, $30 million to $40 million Great Expectations initiative on Tuesday, July 28 at the Carver School Road Public Library branch.

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust was established in 1947 and is now one of the largest private trusts in North Carolina.

Its mission is to improve the quality of life and health for the financially needy of North Carolina.

“For the last several years, we have been working closely with individuals and organizations to design a strategy that ensures every child in Forsyth County has the opportunity to succeed from a young age,” said Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Trust. “Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work to help build an effective early childhood system that helps meet the challenges created when families live in poverty.”

Trust officials say they want to ensure that the thousands of children in Forsyth County, many from financially disadvantaged families, are meeting age-appropriate developmental milestones in their first five years, such as entering kindergarten ready for education and leaving kindergarten ready for learning and life success.

McNeil-Miller said, “It takes a community, all kinds of partners, agencies, families themselves, the faith community, business community, it’s going to take them all. … Every corner of our community has to feel this and believe this.”

“This is a game-changer for our community,” said Leslie Hayes, Business Banking Division Manager at Wells Fargo Bank, which is the trustee for the Trust and represents the business community. “It’s our children and our future.”

Great Expectations will invest in strategies to increase community engagement, such as encourage community members to read to children; improve the systems that serve families, share knowledge and lessons learned and build provider capacity.

The initiative also will focus on direct services to children and adult caregivers in the following core priority areas:

*Improving child and family health.

*Improving self-regulation and executive function among children and adults.

*Improving parent-child interactions and adult caregiving capacity.

*Supporting children’s oral language and vocabulary development.

*Building systems and strengthening families.

To start the initiative off and expand Great Expectations work around the community, the Trust announced over $1.4 million in grants to two government agencies and a business:

*$330,000 to Forsyth County Public Library to establish Great Expectation corners for branches and two mobile units that cater to preschool students.

*$640,000 to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to improve the playgrounds at 23 Title One elementary schools. The playgrounds are open to the community after school, so the community will benefit, McNeil-Miller said.

*$430,000 to First Book, a nonprofit organization that gives children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. The grant will allow First Book to give 1,000 educators books for children of preschool age in disadvantaged areas.

Children from Winston-Salem State University’s Head Start program took part in story time and refreshments, and each child attending was to receive a free book.

Carolyn Wood, a grandmother who works in the public library system, said during the presentation that community members can help with the initiative by reinforcing children’s reading skills, such as reading to them at schools.

“They need an adult that makes the commitment to teach the children to read,” she said.

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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