Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee B.E.S.T. addresses Kindergarten Readiness

Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
B.E.S.T. addresses Kindergarten Readiness

Round Lake Area B.E.S.T. (Bringing Everyone’s Strengths Together), a community coalition of individuals, organization, businesses and local government hosted their first Kindergarten Readiness Committee Event, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee”. The event included community members, elected officials, and local community leaders at a Round-Table discussion including a coffee tasting by Intelligensia Coffee and continental breakfast. 
The committee chaired by B.E.S.T. Vice President Judy Armstrong, organized the event that featured a panel of eight local experts including District 116 Supt Dr. Connie Collins and Avon Township Clerk Jeanne Kearby, who presented the educational challenges in the Round Lake Area and then opened the format to an interactive conversation and brainstorming event.   

The challenge is that our community has a resounding majority of kindergarten students starting school already behind the learning curve.   Nick Heckel, Principal at the Round Lake Area Early Education Center and panel participant shared that is this not unique to the Round Lake Area, the issues of children showing up for kindergarten already behind the learning curve is widespread nationally and globally.

In addition, Heckel shared an estimate that out of 470 students enrolling at the Early Education Center for kindergarten 350 of them have not attended Pre-School.   The speculation is that the family economics has a lot to do with the lack of pre-school attendance.   There are not public (free) pre-schools in the Round Lake Area.  

Panel member Meredith Egan, United Way Lake County talked about their “Success By Six” program has been implemented in the Round Lake Area with growing success and then shared that they now have training and stipends available for “Early Learning Clubs" which will teach parents how reading to their toddles and encouraging conversations about life’s moments actually form the building blocks for learning in more formal ways.    This program in addition to “Success By Six” will help address the challenge of kindergarten readiness.  

During the breakout session, State Senator Melinda Bush, Hainesville Mayor Linda Soto, Trustees Georgeann Duberstein (Hainesville), Larry Mount (Round Lake Beach) Cathy DeGroh and Chris Larson (Avon Township), Paula Rohrs (GRLFPD), Jim DiDinato (Round Lake Library) and Carolina Duque (Mano a Mano) joined community members in brainstorming solutions,

" This organic partnership is a perfect example of the answers that can be found when we bring everyone's strengths together" said Kindergarten Readiness Chair Judy Armstrong.   "It's what B.E.S.T. is all about."

Committee members will be visiting local pediatrician offices in the coming weeks to educate these providers about community resources and to encourage them to help identify toddlers and parents who can us some extra support in developing the fundamentals for life-long learning.    

Armstrong declared that the thirty-nine participants was more than expected for a first event, and she was encouraged by the breakout session, which produced great ideas and identified the many existing programs and partnerships in our community.   "We have a foundation to build upon in the Round Lake Area that will lead to the success of our community and children. ", said Armstrong. 

The committee and sub-committee work will continue during the next six months, engaging local pediatricians, building public awareness, recruiting community partners and establishing Early Learning Clubs. 

 On Thursday, Feb. 4th, 2014, B.E.S.T. and the Kindergarten Readiness Committee will invite all of our partners and the public to a Second Cup CafĂ© to review progress and plan next steps.  Anyone wanting to join the committee is encouraged to call Judy Armstrong at 847-691-6988. 

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Submitted by Wendy M. Warden