601-707-7726 info@excelby5.com
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2012 12:53 AM CDT
Special to the Times-Tribune

HERNANDO — Hernando’s budding Excel by 5 program is looking to build on its assessment of the needs of young children in the community by holding a Town Hall meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the city hall board room.

The Hernando Excel by 5 Coalition has been analyzing community data to determine what barriers exist that keep kids from being prepared for school and would like to hear the community’s views.

“We have been working through the Certification Checklist that helps us gauge where we are in the two-year process. At this point in the process that has involved conducting a community needs assessment of child care, health, family and community resources,” Co-Certification Manager Victoria Penny, Early Childhood Services Coordinator at First Regional Library in Hernando, said Tuesday.

“We really need to hear what the community thinks is needed to make sure Hernando kids are as prepared for kindergarten as they can be,” Penny said. Hernando is a candidate community working toward certification as an official Excel by 5 community.

“We want to make new families who move to Hernando aware of all the great resources already in place for young children’s growth and development as well as to build on those strengths by working together as a community,” Penny said.

The Community Needs Assessment is a “snapshot” of community resources and events related to each community’s families of children ages birth to five. The assessment is critical to learning where services may be missing so that work may begin to fill those gaps.

Excel by 5 sets forth a variety of standards involving parent training, community participation, child care and health to help communities focus on supporting young children and their families. The certification process also identifies available resources and existing best practices to help Excel by 5 – Early Childhood Communities reach the goal that all of their children will be ready to learn when they start school at age five.

“A big part of the process is the development of a resource center and we are fortunate to already have a wonderful resource center in place at First Regional Library,” Co-Certification Manager Shelly Johnstone said. “This allows the Coalition to spend its time on other issues, like developing health fairs, working with local child care centers, and coordinating family education workshops.”

“We are so fortunate to have the support of the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi who has provided funding and other support for this important initiative,” notes Ms. Johnstone.

“Our foundation has recognized that improving the early experiences of children is the most effective and efficient way to improve their educational outcomes,” Community Foundation President and CEO Tom Pittman said. “We commend Hernando for stepping out as the first community in Northwest Mississippi to prepare its children to excel by the age of 5.”

The Hernando Excel by 5 program is designed to provide resources and opportunities for learning for all the participants in a child’s upbringing, from parents to child care operators; pediatricians to school officials.

For more information about the Excel by 5 program go to cityofhernando.org or email Shelly Johnstone at sjohnstone@cityofhernando.org.

News link: http://www.desototimes.com/articles/2012/10/04/news/local/doc506cd923667e5776545366.txt