by The Rev. Greg Buffone
During the discernment process, the CEP research teams realized the importance of intervening before failure and adverse circumstances become entrenched in the lives of individuals and families. Instead of reacting to hardships after they take hold, the teams focused on preventing these adverse outcomes. This is the fundamental rationale behind A Lighted Path’s inaugural program, Adults in Training, and a new ALP program, Strong Start.
Investing in the early years of a child’s development can improve a variety of outcomes later in life, such as physical health, employment, and earnings. Yet less than one of every three economically disadvantaged students who enter kindergarten in HISD have the foundational skills to succeed in school. The new ALP program, Strong Start, will work in partnership with Collaborative for Children to assist early childhood providers and families in preparing children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
High-quality early childhood development experiences produce the best long-term results. Basic academic and essential social and emotional skills are highly correlated with positive K-12 educational success and high school graduation rates. This is predictable given that 90% of brain development takes place by age 5; 85%, by age 3. Unfortunately, for many of Houston’s children, affordable childcare is too often focused on keeping a child safe and fed, with minimal attention to and insufficient resources for the essentials of early childhood development such as social and emotional development, being read to, prioritizing positive teacher-student interactions, and creating a stimulating age-appropriate learning environment. Without these constructive interactions with caring adults, a young child is unlikely to be ready for kindergarten and is likely to remain "behind the curve" throughout the rest of their primary and secondary education. Many ultimately drop out.
Given this background, the Education Team sought to identify a meaningful way to improve the quality of early childhood education in Houston’s lower-income communities and to increase the engagement of our congregation in serving our neighbors in this way.
After more than a year of investigation, the Education Team identified Collaborative for Children as an organization actively engaged in improving the quality of early-childhood education for children under age five in low-income communities. Collaborative for Children works directly with private childcare centers to improve the quality of early learning and to bolster the business resiliency of these small businesses. Partnering with the Collaborative will enable SJD to participate in improving the quality of early childhood education that critically impacts nearly 3,000 children and their families in 50 childcare centers in the Houston area.
A Strong Start will be the second program launched by A Lighted Path and will be focused on helping to prepare children for K-12 success.
Read the first post in this series, St. John the Divine Community Engagement: From Discernment to Action
The next post in this series will introduce the mission and specific ways Collaborative for Children seeks to improve early childhood care and outcomes and detail the ways in which SJD will support the Collaborative, their clients, and the children and families they serve. Read more about the Collaborative for Children.
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