(August 17, 2017) – Building a stronger Southern Kentucky by investing in quality early childhood programs was the focus of the Early Childhood Education Breakfast that drew more than 150 area business and community leaders to the Sloan Convention Center on August 17th.

United Way of Southern Kentucky partnered with The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in hosting the breakfast event. Since 1983, the Prichard Committee has worked to study priority issues, inform the public and policy makers about best practices, and engage citizens, business leaders, families, students, and other stakeholders in a shared mission to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states for education excellence and equity for all children, from their earliest years through postsecondary education. Thanks to the efforts of the Committee and dedicated citizens, Kentucky has moved from the bottom of the national rankings in education to the middle and above. Their ambitious goal is to move to the top tier of all states within this generation.  

The event featured a presentation by Nicki Patton Rowe, an Early Childhood Education Professional and Advocate. Daughter of former Governor Paul Patton, most notably Nicki chaired Governor Patton’s Early Childhood Task Force and the Early Childhood Professional Council. As well, Nicki was a leading architect of the Kentucky KIDS NOW Initiative. She is a Kentucky credentialed Early Childhood Trainer and one of five Kentucky Master Trainers with a great passion for working with the adults who work with children ages birth to 5.

“We are honored to have Nicki with us today.  As a leading advocate for early childhood education, Nicki’s message on early brain development and its impact on the longer term development of the child further supports United Way and the community’s focus on kindergarten readiness and early education”, says Debbie Hills, President & CEO of United Way of Southern Kentucky.

After an extensive 18-months of research by United Way into the needs of the Southern Kentucky community that began in 2012, United Way of Southern Kentucky identified Kindergarten Readiness as an issue on which to take a greater focus. From the research, it was discovered that 50% of local children in Southern Kentucky are entering kindergarten on day one deemed ‘not ready’ to succeed. Since that time and discovery, United Way has set forth a bold goal of increasing the number of children who are ready for kindergarten to 75% by the year 2020. In order to reach this goal, United Way has also adjusted their funding structure to allow for 20% of annual funding to impact this particular area -specifically targeted at Kindergarten Readiness programs.

In order to truly move the needle in this area and meet the goal set forth, United Way understood that efforts would be required to go beyond just the funding of programs and, with the help of a collaborative partnership with U.S. Bank, launched a Kindergarten Readiness awareness campaign this past year to help educate parents about how to better prepare their children for day one of kindergarten.

As part of this effort, United Way is encouraging parents to READ, PLAY, COUNT, and LOG OFF with their children. Parents can log onto the United Way microsite MyChildIsReady.com to find information to determine if their child is kindergarten ready and if not, how they can adapt everyday activities to increase the level of their child’s readiness.

In addition to the Kindergarten Readiness Awareness Campaign, United Way is also generating revenue and managing program efforts for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Thanks to large corporate support from companies like Fruit of the Loom and many more, currently 3,984 children are receiving one book per month mailed directly to their home free of charge to the family as a result of being enrolled in this program, 3,186 have already graduated from the program, and 145,555 books have been mailed as a result of this program since its inception.

However, United Way is seeking the support from the business community in order to continue moving efforts forward in the work of Early Childhood Education.

Research shows that a child’s most critical period of intellectual development lasts from birth to the age of five. Therefore, quality early child care can have a significant impact on children’s lives, preparing them to learn, grow and succeed. Early Childhood Education experts expressed support of the urgency to support this initiative in a video created by VidMonster Productions at the event which can be downloaded at MyChildIsReady.com.

Attendees were encouraged to continue the fight for all children in Southern Kentucky to have the opportunity for a strong start to a successful life by using the information materials made available and by downloading more information and materials at MyChildIsReady.com.

Sponsors for the event included:

GOLD SPONSORS: TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital and Warren County Public Schools

SILVER SPONSOR: Bowling Green Municipal Utilities

TABLE SPONSORS: BKD, LLP, Charles M. Moore Insurance, Graves Gilbert Clinic, Service One Credit Union, Trace Die Cast, U.S. Bank

For more information about United Way’s work in Early Childhood Education, log on to the United Way of Southern Kentucky website at www.liveunitedtoday.com.  

United Way of Southern Kentucky (UWSK) is a local, independent, non-profit organization that works to identify and address the issues that matter most, change conditions and improve lives. The mission of United Way of Southern Kentucky is to be the leader in bringing together the resources to build a stronger, more caring community. United Way is focused on the building blocks for good quality of life – Education, Income, Health and Safety Net. Therefore, the vision of United Way is a Southern Kentucky where all residents are educated, healthy, and financially stable. Incorporated as a charitable non-profit entity in 1956, UWSK has long served a major role in the community by bringing people together to create opportunities that make a measurable difference in the quality of life for people where they live and work.