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35 Mississippi Communities Unite at Excel By 5 Summit- The Clarion-Ledger

Best practices in early learning is the focus as representatives from 35 Mississippi communities convene today at Excel By 5’s annual Community Collaboration Summit.

“We continue to grow and are thrilled that more communities are embracing Excel By 5’s collaborative process to identify, use and enhance existing early learning and child development resources in their areas to help prepare children be happy, healthy and ready to learn,” Steve Renfroe, Excel By 5, Board President said.

“At the summit, community coalition members will exchange ideas, and advance the dialogue about how communities – regardless of size – can act to promote and provide optimal early learning and development experiences for the benefit of our youngest citizens. The research is clear that early childhood experiences (from birth to five years) are crucial for a child’s long-term success in school, the workforce, the community and throughout their life. It is now recognized that early learning and development experiences have an impact beyond the classroom.”

Featured speakers at this 4th annual Summit, include Major General Roger L. Shields, member of Mission Readiness, a nonpartisan national security organization of senior retired military leaders who advocate educational improvements for America’s children, and Meggan Gray, news anchor at WLOX, who will share her views on what is driving Excel By 5’s growth in South Mississippi. Nadine Coleman, board president-elect, will also officially begin her three-year term as president during the day’s events.

During the summit, communities will be recognized for their efforts with the Excel By 5 process. Breakout sessions on various early learning and community leadership-related topics will allow coalition members from certified and candidate communities to network and participate in group discussions.

“We encourage our Excel By 5 communities to connect with parents, families and caregivers on how to make the best use of available community resources and utilize a pragmatic, ongoing process to enhance the early learning and development experiences in our communities,” said Renfroe. “The Excel By 5 process is built upon the concept that through best practices, collaboration, engagement and overall community involvement, we can prepare children, from birth to age five, to learn effectively when they are ready for school, drastically improving their chances for success in the future.”

Excel By 5’s step-by-step process was developed after collaborating with early childhood education, development, and child advocacy experts from public, private an academic sectors. In 2004, Chevron provided funding for a pilot program to launch the Excel By 5 initiative in four communities. Today 35 communities across the state are participating in Excel By 5, with eight communities achieving Excel By 5 Certification. One community has become certified and seven new candidate communities have come on board since the 2011 Summit.

Originally funded by a $650,000 grant from Chevron in 2004, Excel By 5 is now a 501c3 non-profit organization. In addition to Chevron, Excel By 5 has received additional assistance and collaboration from the Walker Foundation, the Phil Hardin Foundation, Mississippi Building Blocks, State Farm, W.K. Kellogg Foundation through its support of the Mississippi Center for Education Innovation and others.


News link: http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20121003/NEWS/121003008/35-Mississippi-communities-unite-EXCEL-BY-5-SUMMIT