(September 19, 2016) – The United Way Born Learning Academy is an innovative program that meets a critical need in Kentucky communities – early childhood parental education. This school-based Academy consists of six free workshop sessions one night after school each month that provide parents with the tools to help their children succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

The goal of the Academy is to help prepare children for kindergarten by teaching parents and caregivers how to turn everyday moments into learning opportunities. The tools are easy, sometimes as simple as talking about the colors of the trucks that pass by while mom and baby head to the grocery store. The school-based workshops allow a meaningful conversation to start with parents early, offering them the essential building blocks of education to support their child’s future academic successes and to create a strong connection between home and school.

United Way strives to meet parents where they are. That’s the philosophy of the United Way Born Learning initiative, which has helped more than 15 million parents understand how to use everyday moments as learning moments. More than 600 United Ways and partner organizations have used Born Learning’s materials to help parents, families and caregivers to promote school readiness and literacy, and to enlist business leaders and decision makers in the cause.

Parents of young children (prenatal to five years old) are engaged in hands-on activities and discussion about what it means to be ready for kindergarten and offered strategies they can use at home to maximize their child’s early learning and development. The intentional placement of a school setting allows for parents and children to gain insight and a level of comfort needed to help transition into school later. This is also an opportunity for school leaders to get to know the family and their needs – all leading to long-standing and positive parent-teacher relationships.

The United Way Born Learning Academy was developed by Kenton County Schools, Early Childhood Faculty Members from Northern Kentucky University, and United Way of Greater Cincinnati Success by 6 to support kindergarten readiness. The intent of the Academy is to engage families with the school system in the earliest years of their child’s education, much like the Harlem Children’s Zone “Baby College” in New York. After the pilot project at Beechgrove Elementary experienced such overwhelming success, Northern Kentucky expanded the project to four other school districts, and the Academy has been highlighted by United Way Worldwide as a best practice.

In order for a community to host a Born Learning Academy, there must be a strong commitment by the district and school leadership. Participating schools make the sincere attempt to recruit and build relationships with parents and caregivers. The school is provided with the United Way Born Learning Academy materials, training, and pre/post surveys. The workshops are led by trained professionals – usually teachers, principals or other education staff – and focus on the following topics: Turning Everyday Moments into Learning Opportunities, Building Relationships, Building your Child’s Language Skills, Nutrition and Health, How Children Learn, and Routines & Learning on the Go.

In addition to the information provided at the free workshops, each location also provides dinner for the families at no charge and door prizes at the conclusion of each workshop. Though it is encouraged that parents and children attend every workshop, it is not required. Please see list of local Born Learning Academies starting soon below:

           SCHOOL                  TIME                                DATES                                  

Lost River Elementary      5-6:30pm      10/17, 11/14, 12/12, 1/9, 2/13, 2/27

Parker Bennett Curry        5:30-7pm       9/15, 10/20, 11/17, 2/16, 3/16, 4/20

Dishman McGinnis            5:30-7pm      9/19, 10/17, 11/14, 1/23, 2/27, 3/20

T.C. Cherry                       5:30-7pm      9/13, 10/18, 11/15, 2/14, 3/14, 4/18

There are currently 14 total Born Learning Academies across Southern Kentucky. In addition to those listed above, Born Learning Academies can also be found at Adairville School, Bonnieville Elementary, Franklin Elementary, Morgantown Elementary, Lewisburg School, R.E. Stevenson Elementary, Auburn Elementary, Chandlers Elementary, Olmstead Elementary, and Tompkinsville Elementary. While the program at Dishman McGinnis is now receiving funding through a grant from Toyota, Born Learning Academies at Auburn Elementary, Chandler Elementary, and Olmstead Elementary receive funding directly from United Way of Southern Kentucky. The remaining schools currently receive funding for the program from the Race to the Top Grant provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the Kentucky Governor’s Office.

Sessions are held at each school location mentioned above though children do not have to be future attendees at that location in order to attend.

Programs like the Born Learning Academy supports locally United Way of Southern Kentucky’s Early Childhood Education Big Bold Goal of increasing the percentage of children entering kindergarten ready to succeed from 49.4% at the time of the establishment of the goal to 75% by the year 2020.

Keshia Ingram, Director of Community Impact for United Way of Southern Kentucky, says, “United Way Born Learning Academies are truly one of the best opportunities to help get children in our community Kindergarten Ready. Having 14 of these academies stretched across the Barren River Area is going to help change the trajectory of the children and families in our community. Parents and Guardians will always be their child’s first teacher and Born-Learning Academies equip parents with the tools necessary to be able to be the best teacher they can be during those early years. Even something as basic as providing a sit down meal for these families, will help reintroduce meal-time back in the home- something that many people no longer do. I cannot wait to see the outcome of the Born Learning Academies over the next 8 months.”