Advocacy and Action Nationally – Early Counts in St. Petersburg, Florida

This Christmas I was telling my dad about the work we’re doing through the Junior League of Minneapolis and specifically in Advocacy.  (Not really) to my surprise, he was very well educated on the achievement gap and had a ton to share with me.

His closest peer at work is Chair/Chief Volunteer Office for their local YMCA in Florida.  In the past 2-3 years, their organization has kickstarted a campaign, Early Counts, geared toward early-childhood development and kindergarten readiness.  The goals of this program are to improve academic success, increase post-secondary attendance, lower crime rates, etc.  Sound familiar?

Earlier today, I had a great conversation with my dad’s peer to learn more about Early Counts and the work they are doing.  Many of their insights mirror those we have seen in Minnesota –

• By age 5, 90% of a child’s brain structure is developed – meaning family and community environment play a critical role in that development.

• Voluntary Prekindergarten Education programs aren’t always accessible or financially viable for families, making them unattractive.

Since the implementation of Early Counts, they have opened two early-childhood schools in the community for children aged 2-5.  One of their schools was donated to them and results so far have been outstanding.  At the start of the year, 38% of students were considered kindergarten ready and now that number is up to 83% after just one year.  In addition, 81% of students enrolled receive scholarship money through the YMCA or government ELC programs, making education affordable.

Since joining the JLM, I’ve learned a lot about the Achievement Gap, specifically in Minnesota and the Twin Cities.  But it’s important to remind ourselves this is a national issue as well, and there are some great things being done nationally to close it.  It’s this kind of work that keeps me continuously engaged and excited about advocacy and demonstrates that every action counts.

If you’re interested, below are some additional resources on Early Counts.

Early Counts Official Website – http://www.stpeteymca.org/blank/early-counts/

Early Counts Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36dHSmGs05c&feature=youtu.be

Post contributed by Carrie Curtis.

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