Editor's note: Experts agree that if we're serious about improving educational outcomes for children, we must start in the critical early years of a child's brain development. It's also a reality that kids from low-income families typically start school 1-2 years behind their peers, and many never catch up. Most often, these kids spend their days in programs that offer no educational opportunities, let alone meet basic safety and health standards.
As part of United Way's long-term plan to turn that around, we are working with child care ministries like Charity Child Care in Haughville, one of the most impoverished Indianapolis neighborhoods.
In December, Charity became the first child care ministry in the state to reach the highest level of achievement on Indiana’s Paths to QUALITY rating scale. United Way was among community partners who helped, investing a modest amount, about $10,000, for extraordinary returns, as Director Juaneka "Nikki" Ennis describes.
In October 2008, Charity Child Care had reached its peak enrollment of 200 children in its then 13- year history. Great things were happening! Children were being cared for in a loving manner and in a clean and safe environment. We screened and trained our caregivers and teachers. Overall, families were satisfied.
Remember the old saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it?” At Charity, we rejected that thinking, choosing to strive for an even higher quality of care because quite simply, our children deserve the best.
After researching Paths to Quality, a rating scale, we decided to pursue the highest level of quality. Everyone was on board to make the major changes needed.
First, we had to host an onsite, nine-month course though Ivy Tech State College so that 12 staff members could earn their Child Development Associate national accreditation We also needed to create an infant-toddler playground, improve the preschool and school age playgrounds; and purchase developmentally appropriate curriculum and play items to create learning interest centers in 12 classrooms.
These changes required teamwork from everyone - staff members, our governing church, and families. It also required help from the outside. United Way in particular was an invaluable partner providing an onsite mentor who helped with every aspect; and buying toys, books, furniture and computers along with funding professional development.
After four years, Charity eached the highest level of achievement on Indiana’s rating scale and accreditation by the National Association of Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA) as a Level 4 Paths to Quality provider.
It has been an invaluable experience. And the results are abundant:
--children are cared for and taught in a high quality environment that is both challenging and age-appropriate;
--their specific needs are assessed and addressed;
--staff members receive ongoing education in early childhood;
--staff members earn a living wage that meets the needs of their own families;
--enrolled families have access to a wealth of resources;
--and, the holistic needs of all children served.
As the first and only registered child care ministry in Indiana to earn Level 4 status, Charity Child Care is proud of our collective accomplishment. Faith in God fueled us to pursue early childhood excellence. We hope to inspire other ministries to do the same.
For more on the story by Fox 59, click here.
--Juaneka "Nikki" Ennis, Charity Child Care program director
On the kitchen table of their Fishers apartment, Natalie and Nicole, 18, proudly showed their high school graduation, step team pictures and notes from classmates to WTHR's anchor, Andrea Morehead. The twins earned their diplomas from Hamilton Southeastern High School and are on their way to college in southern Indiana.
If you think it sounds like a nice experience – but hardly the stuff of which news is made – tune in September 4 at 7:30 p.m. to watch Andrea tell the story on WTHR Channel 13. It's part of local television broadcaster's coverage of what giving, advocating and volunteering make possible, thanks to United Way.
You'll learn about the years of abuse the girls survived before putting on their caps and gowns. And, you'll see how Child Advocates, a United Way agency led by Cynthia Booth, and its volunteer, Helene Massey, provided support, love and resources for their well-being today, and their dreams for the future. Thank you!
--Mary L. Kinney, Public/media relations director, United Way
Remember the saying, "One good turn deserves another?" You could see it in action this week at IPS School 69, thanks to United Way volunteer Rose Marie Goodman, who took her ReadUP tutoring role above and beyond. When Rose Marie finished tutoring last spring, she decided to donate some books to the school to enrich the book collection for young readers. At the Zionsville jewelry store she and her husband own, customers are not charged for changing watch batteries, but some still want to pay. Rose Marie used those contributions – nearly $300 – to buy quality books for students at School 69. The store owner at 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville where she picked out the books was touched by her gestures. She wanted to help, so she discounted the books and even donated one herself.
Rose Marie (back row, second from right) presented the books to second and third graders. It’s all part of the goal to help them become better readers, better students, and therefore more likely to graduate as a building block to a better life. Thanks to Rose Marie and everyone she inspired to LIVE UNITED, too! See more pictures from the event here.
--Mary L. Kinney, Public/media relations director, United Way
Volunteering in the ReadUP summer pilot program turned out to be a gift I gave myself this summer. I'm SO grateful I had the opportunity to tutor and get to know 11-year-old Ryan through ReadUP at Edna Martin Christian Center (EMCC). And it was fun to watch Ryan discover that reading is fun when you're reading about cool things...like the NBA play-offs, Michael Jackson and stinky plants.
Special thanks to United Way ReadUP coordinator Judith Rosario and reading specialist Tiffani Brown for quickly assessing Ryan's needs and magically producing books and magazines at his reading level that would interest him. Summer is short. There was no time to waste!
My visits to the community center were also a great reminder of the many ways United Way makes our community a better place. With support from United Way, the Summer Youth Program Fund and others, EMCC and many other community centers across the city keep kids safe, active, well-nourished, and LEARNING over the summer.
Research from Johns Hopkins University and others tells us that two-thirds of the achievement gap between low income children and their better off peers can be attributed to summer learning loss.
Summer offers not only an opportunity, but a responsibility to close this gap, and summer readUP is a great way to do that! Plus, it's really fun!
Diane Pfeiffer, readUP volunteer
Editor's note: United Way is now recruiting volunteers for the school year ReadUP experience along with mentoring opportunities and reading to young children. Go here to get involved yourself!
Where can you find a martial arts program, talented dancers and Cub and Girl Scout troops? Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School students would say "just hang out after school!"
Thanks to funding provided by Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm in Indianapolis, these IPS students are able to participate in a variety of afterschool programs—some being offered for the first time at the school.
Taft implemented the afterschool programs last September, and on Friday evening, January 27, the proud students showed parents, the law firm's employees and program coordinators what they've learned. The showcase began with a flag presentation from Cub Scout Troop 58, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Along with the Cub Scouts were Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Girl Scouts, selling their renowned assortment of cookies at a table in the gymnasium.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Iibada Dance Company director, Sabra Logan, introduced the student dance team. The dancers were trained by instructors from the Iibada Dance Company, an African and modern dance company for children. The girls danced in colorful pink and purple costumes to the song, "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" by Shakira. The mission of the Iibada Dance Company is to encourage self-discipline, positive self-esteem and cultural enrichment through the art of dance.
"I liked learning how Africans talk. I thought it was Spanish at first, but it sounded weird. The really cool part about it was learning about how they dressed," said student dancer, LaDawn.
Students from the Impact Martial Arts program took the floor next, led by director, Larry Stiers. After the performance, five students were awarded with yellow belts. Although students were excited about the awarded improvement, they were just happy to be learning and having fun.
"My favorite thing I've learned is how to spin around and kick at the same time," said first-grader and yellow belt recipient, Jalen.
Stiers said, "The kids are more disciplined now than when they came in. They used to come in and run around, and now they come in and find their spots. It's been a great experience for me, too. More than anything, this practice teaches them discipline and respect."
Activity directors and coordinators saw great improvement from the children, and parents in the audience sat proudly as they watched the kids perform. Craig Roberts, a parent of four children, said, "It's (the afterschool program) teaching my kids stuff that I can't necessarily teach them. I want my kids to be well-rounded, and I think it's a great thing to have at this school, especially in this area of the city."
One thing is clear: Taft’s relationship with United Way and this IPS school is a win for the students, their parents, and the community.
View more photos of the event
—Katie Rethlake, communications intern, United Way of Central Indiana
Editor's note: When children don't feel well, they often don't do well in school. And absences disrupt both a child's learning and the overall classroom. Often, children miss school because of illnesses that could be treated in a health center. As part of United Way's education priority, we support health services in five Indianapolis Public Schools in two neighborhoods with significant need, providing preventative and primary care to hundreds of students. Since January 2008 United Way has invested $901,600 in school-based health centers in IPS elementary schools. Read what that investment means, from the perspective of a school principal.
In 1913, Dr. Theodore Potter founded a school focused on educating students suffering from tuberculosis and other lung ailments. Ironically, for well over 30 years, Theodore Potter School 74 went without a school nurse. It was not until United Way introduced us to Learning Well that we understood just how important it is to have a medical professional on campus.
Before our partnership with Learning Well, my mornings, lunches, and afternoons were spent dispensing medicine, applying bandages to skinned elbows, and offering cold packs to ease the pain of a bruised knee.
Each visit meant lost instructional time. If a student complained of a headache or upset tummy they spent more time away from class waiting for their parents to show up, as I could not do any diagnosis. Nine times out of ten when parents were called in they simply took their student home. That often resulted in an entire day of lost learning.
What a blessing Learning Well has been! Students now receive medicines, bandages and cold packs from a trusted medical professional. The school nurse sees through those who are complaining of tummy aches to get out of something and send them straight back to class. Most importantly, they can recognize those who are actually ill and act with confidence.
Since Learning Well joined the School 74 family, the dispensing of medicines is a more expeditious process. Scrapes and scratches are taken care of quickly with reassurance, kindness and care. This all equates to more class time for our students.
In addition to her expert clinical skills, our school nurse provides educational programming that helps students, staff and families learn how to lead a healthier life.
There is no doubt that our nurse has contributed to more instructional time, decreased clinic visits, and our first quarter’s 98.2% student attendance rate.
Words cannot express how much our students, staff and families appreciate our Learning Well nurse. A much-needed niche has been filled due to the generosity and dedication of Learning Well and United Way. School 74 is a stronger learning environment because of this, and I am confident many other schools would benefit in the same ways if offered the same opportunity.
--Tim Clevenger, principal, School 74
Would you describe your child as a reluctant reader? Do you wish they could have a tutor?
If your answer to both questions is "yes," but you're not sure how to get that extra help, this blog is for you.
What you – your child's first teacher – does at home with them can make a big difference in their success in school.
I'm a mom too, so I know that your time is precious. That's why I suggest using these four strategies that United Way's ReadUP volunteer tutoring program incorporates into its successful work with third, fourth and fifth graders who are a year or two behind in their reading.
Why not take a half hour or so to try these ideas yourself and see if you notice a difference in your young reader?
- Echo Reading: You read a short passage with expression, intonation and fluency. Then your child reads the same passage trying to use the same expression, intonation and fluency. You, grandparents, or siblings can read to your child this way to improve their skills and comprehension and to simply develop a love of reading together.
- Five Finger Rule:When selecting a new book for your child, ask for their help in picking one that is challenging but not so hard that it discourages them or so easy that they don't improve. Ask your child to read a short paragraph or page from the book appeals to them. As they read, your child holds up all five fingers on one hand. Each time your child skips over a word, has trouble pronouncing it, or substitutes another word, ask them to put down one finger.
Use this chart to help select the right book for your child's level. Ideally, your child should have one or two fingers down for a text that will challenge them.
- Questioning: As you read together, ask your child questions about the reading to help them make connections to the text and improve their understanding. For example, ask what they think will happen next? Ask them to give you an example of a time when something similar happened to them. Or, ask them to think of another choice the character could have made. Answering those kinds of questions and others will help your child remember information, understand the meaning behind the writing and apply the information to other situations.
- Variety: Read a variety of fiction and non-fiction. This will expose your child to a range of vocabulary and ideas. Provide an assortment of books, magazines, comic books, picture books, brochures, maps and newspapers. Also, read road signs and building signs together as you're going places. It's a way to easily fit reading into your already busy life.
Let us how these tips work for you! If you like them, share them with other families. And, if you try them and would like to help someone else's child by becoming a ReadUP tutor, please go to www.readupindy.org or call 317.921.1217 to sign up now. Or, if someone you know would be a great tutor, encourage them to get involved! Better readers become better students. And, better students have the building blocks for a better life!
--Shannon Jenkins, ReadUP reading specialist
Editor’s Note: Shannon Jenkins is in her third year working as a reading specialist for United Way of Central Indiana’s ReadUP program. She serves as a liaison between the participating schools and United Way and works one-on-one with students and volunteer tutors. Jenkins earned a Master’s Degree in reading instruction in 2007, with a focus on elementary remedial reading. Before that, she taught fourth- and fifth grades in MSD Pike Township.
There have been some interesting developments related to early childhood issues at the State House over the last few weeks. Each summer and fall, Indiana General Assembly interim study committees meet to review, or "study", issues identified by the legislature during the most recent legislative session or suggested by legislators. Two committees that United Way of Central Indiana has been following closely and participating in this year are the committee on child care and the interim study committee on education issues. Both met during the week of September 26 and covered some interesting topics.
The child care committee – which continues to study the status and quality of child care in the state – met after touring several different child care facilities in Indianapolis. Committee members spoke highly of two facilities they toured that are affiliated with United Way of Central Indiana: St. Mary's Child Center – a licensed child care center and United Way agency, and Charity Child Care Ministry – a child care provider that is part of United Way's registered ministry project and has achieved a Level 1 status in the state's Paths to QUALITY program. Committee members spoke highly of both the quality of each program's facilities and the ministry work being conducted. You can read the meeting minutes here. As you will read in the minutes, unfortunately not all child care providers offer such safe, high quality care. It's because of these discrepancies in care among providers that United Way continues to support standardizing basic health and safety requirements for Indiana child care providers. The child care committee meets one more time this year, on October 25, when they'll be discussing any possible legislation or other recommendations for the 2012 legislative session. Here's a link to the committee's web page if you'd like to attend or watch online.
On September 29, the interim study committee on education issues met and heard testimony on how early childhood education can help improve high school graduation rates. Dr. Ted Maple - director of United Way of Central Indiana's Success by 6 program - spoke about United Way's early childhood work, including United Way's support for standardized child care health and safety and mandatory full-day kindergarten. Dr. Maple also testified on behalf of the Indiana Association of United Ways about policy options that the state should consider a focus on early childhood. At this meeting, the committee adopted – by a vote of 10-0 – a motion to support development of an early learning advisory committee to the Indiana education roundtable. You can read the minutes from the meeting here.
As you can see, there’s a lot going on related to early learning in Indiana. Stay tuned for further updates as these committees wrap up their work later this fall and develop final reports by November 1.
--Laura Smoots, director, public policy, United Way of Central Indiana
What's your favorite way to celebrate a successful project?
It's hard to beat the recipe of bringing everyone together to thank them, stirring in a tasty meal, mixing in some memories of what you accomplished together, and of course, planning the NEXT project!
So that's what we did yesterday to cap off the 2011 United Way Volunteer for Education Simulcast.
The tasty meal was served by culinary job training students at Second Helpings, a United Way agency.
The thank yous were prepared by 2011 Annual Campaign Chair Marianne Glick and Board Chair David Resnick, starting with an extra helping of gratitude to lead producer, Young-Hee Yedinak, from WTHR Channel 13.
The memories were shared by viewing some of the video packages local TV stations created about volunteers who read, tutor or mentor our children. (If you missed the Sept. 6 debut, you can watch them now on YouTube!)
And, next year's project got started with the announcement from United Way's President and CEO Ellen Annala and General Manager Jeff White that WISH TV 8 will be the lead producer in 2012!
Thank you again to all our local television stations, The Indianapolis Star and the nearly 100 individuals who made this project possible!
--Mary Kinney, public/media relations director, United Way of Central Indiana
Many children are reluctant readers. They often lack basic reading skills, and subsequently earn poor grades. As early as third and fourth grade, many find themselves academically well behind their peers in all subjects.
Some, however, simply need extra time and assistance to catch up. ReadUP offers that opportunity.
For several years now, Greenfield-Central School Corporation and United Way have partnered to offer reluctant readers extra help through ReadUP, a unique community-based tutoring program. And it appears that our students and volunteers couldn’t be happier about this exceptional tutoring program.
ReadUP, a program funded by United Way, links community volunteers to third grade students who need extra assistance with reading. Greenfield-Central is very fortunate to have expanded ReadUP programs at three of its elementary schools: Harris, JB Stephens, and, most recently, Weston Elementary. Community volunteers receive training in tutoring skills, and are then matched up with struggling readers one hour each week.
And does it ever make a difference! Students rave about their tutors, and teachers and parents unreservedly support the program. Many reluctant readers gain measurable progress of one or more reading levels in a relatively short amount of time, and develop a better appreciation for reading in the process.
Moreover, students are not the only ones to benefit from ReadUP. Volunteer tutors find they are able to gain a child’s admiration and trust along the way. Priceless!
Greenfield-Central School Corporation is a strong and committed advocate for United Way’s ReadUP programs.
We see results. We LIVE UNITED!
--Dr. Linda Gellert, Superintendent, Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation