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W.K. Kellogg Assists Work in the Indianola Promise Community

Posted on: February 2, 2012

(Stoneville) – Indianola Promise Community Director Eligah Johnson often describes the long range community improvement initiative as having “several moving parts.”  No other partnership within IPC exemplifies this statement quite like organizations that comprise the W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant partnership. This three year $5 million initiative began in July 2011 and brings together the resources and expertise of several different organizations to improve the lives of Indianola’s citizens. Partnering organizations include Mississippi Center for Education Innovation (MSCEI), Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Parents for Public Schools of Jackson (PPSJ), Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute and the Indianola Public School District.

Mississippi Center for Education Innovation, co-manager of the IPCEEC is focused on improving the educational system in Mississippi, particularly the Delta region. In Indianola, the Center will fuse two successful homegrown approaches to early education. One is Supporting Parents to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) and the other is the Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office. This component of the Children’s Defense Fund focuses on implementing transition and alignment strategies between early educations and early formal schooling (kindergarten through third grade. A local children’s partnership comprised of a cross section of community leaders and an Excel by 5 community certification process make this CDF component possible. Excel by 5 was the idea of a Mississippi kindergarten teacher named Debby Renfroe who noticed that children entering her classroom had difficulties grasping the material. She and others put together a certification process for communities to be labeled child friendly for children birth to age five. The process includes families, community members and schools. It provides simple tips for preparing young children for early education. One tip for parents is to sing and talk to infants and toddlers when they give them a bath because it helps build language skills. For adults who have reading difficulties, Excel by 5 recommends picture reading to children. This is simply taking something like a family portrait and having a conversation with the child about the picture. The overall idea behind Excel by 5 is that children learn in several different ways.

Children’s Defense Fund/Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) will provide support to one hundred (100) children in Indianola and provide them with the supports and services necessary to ensure their seamless transition into school and academic success through age eight, or grade three.  SPARK prepares children moving from childcare centers and kindergarten for the academic and social environment of the first grade classroom. SPARK achieves this by conducting home visits of selected children and families, providing textbooks to supplement classroom instruction, training teachers and monitoring the progress of each child. The goal of SPARK is to create a long range network of family, school and social resources that help children achieve early success in a formal school setting.

Parents for Public Schools of Jackson (PPSJ) is a network of grassroots citizens who have the knowledge, skills, and motivation to work with teachers and administrators to change district and school policies and be more engaged in the educational process.  PPSJ will continue parent advocacy efforts to make parents more knowledgeable about school functions.  PPSJ teaches parents engagement and dialogue skills when communicating with school officials and trains them on state and local educational policies. This effort targets (30) parents of elementary school children, grades K-6 at Carver and Lockard Elementary Schools in Indianola.

Mississippi State University/Early Childhood Institute Promise School is an eight-week summer preparation session aimed at strengthening the literacy development skills of preschool children coming from formal and informal early education backgrounds. Children who have attended this program have shown better performance in kindergarten, first and second grade than their peers who were not part of the program. The Promise School is housed in Carver Lower Elementary School.

Mississippi State University/Early Childhood Institute- Parents as Teachers (PAT) Program enhances parenting skills and infant and child development. PAT provides access to high quality medical and educational services for low-income pregnant women and families with children up to age five using mentors and home visitation.

Indianola School District will provide afterschool programming for youth K-6 grades. The after school program will provide remediation for at-risk students. At-risk students are students that are well below mastery of objectives for Common Core Standards. These students will receive extensive support for mastery of objectives. The afterschool program will help to improve the students’ self-confidence and their desire to learn and benefit the students by providing them one-on-one and small-group instruction. The program serves over 300 youths.