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Community Editor

Published: Saturday, March 31, 2012 12:52 AM CDT

HERNANDO — Children’s brains are three-fourths of an adult-sized brain by the age of three.

Studies indicate that children by the age of 3 need to be intellectually stimulated in order to jump start development and learning.

What’s even more interesting is that by the age of 3, children are two and a half times more active.

Studies and statistics like that fascinate Vicki Page who is the pre-school director at Hernando Baptist Church.

As a pre-school director, Page said she wants to learn as much as she can about early childhood development in order to motivate and help children thrive.

Page is a member of the Hernando Excel by 5 Coalition. Hernando is a candidate community working toward certification as an Excel by 5 community. There are now a total of 32 across the state.

Launched in the Fall of 2004, Excel by 5 is an innovative program designed to ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten and first grade.

“Being in education since I got out of college, it’s my opinion the kids need all the advantages they can get, especially since kindergarten is not mandated in the State of Mississippi,” Page said. “If we can at least get things in the parents’ hands about what’s available, it’s a big help. They just soak everything up.”

Shelly Johnstone, City Development Director, is assisting the Excel By 5 effort.

“We have been accepted as an Excel by 5 community and I’m excited about that,” Johnstone said.

Hernando is the 31st city in the state to join the Excel by 5 program, according to Bob Clay, executive director of the Excel by 5 program as overseen by Mississippi State University.

Communities need to invest in children, Clay said. “It’s in their best interest.

Clay said for every one-dollar invested in a a quality pre-kindergarten program, there is a $7 return.

Clay said Hernando, for instance, has a population of 14,090. There are a total of 1,099 children under 5.

There are a total of 1,332 children in Hernando who are day-care age with a total of five full-time daycares.

Only 36 percent of all children in that range are enrolled in day care, according to Clay.

The building blocks for knowledge and learning have been acquired. At that age, it is already determined whether a child will likely fail or succeed in life, according to Clay.

“That’s why the early years are so important,” Clay said.

Since last June, Excel By 5 has been the focus of an eight-county push through a $150,000 commitment from the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi.

In addition to DeSoto, Excel by 5 programs are being sought for Coahoma, Marshall, Panola, Quitman, Tallahatchie, Tate and Tunica counties.

Robert Lee Long:  rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397

News link: http://www.desototimes.com/articles/2012/03/31/news/local/doc4f7652fb8b7ff014000751.txt