Excel by 5

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Community members celebrate county achievement - Julee Brown WTVA (jbrown@wtva.com)

It took money, time and a lot of hard work but Monroe county leaders hope it all pays off for children in that area. The county is now Certified as an "Excel By 5" Early childhood community. The effort will help ensure all children get a head start on school.

The kids at French's Child Learning and Development center in Amory are eager to learn.

With a certified agenda, these kids have all the tools they need to be ready to start school at age 5.

"As children enter school if they are not ready, clearly they are entering at a disadvantage with other children in the school," says Excel By 5 site coordinator Bob Clay.

Monroe County wants all its children from birth to age 5 to enter school ready. The county is so committed, it is now the first entire county in the state to be certified.

"It was the initial vision of the Gilmore Foundation," says Gilmore Foundation's Rusty King, "that we would provide a level playing field for all of our children so that when they begin school they begin ready to learn."

It has taken years for the certification, and local educators like Superintendent Dr. Gearl Londen say, if it will narrow the achievement gap, it was well worth the wait.

"As a school superintendent and an old school teacher (is excited) just knowing that our young people will come in with a better foundation where they have literacy skills and being worked with and are healthier than if they didn't have this program."

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.

News link: http://www.wtva.com/news/local/story/Monroe-County-certified-Excel-By-5/qpAy_m5wqkaRDub89GdR_g.cspx