October 1, 2012
Many experts say that the most important years in a child’s life are from the time of birth until the age of five.
Unfortunately, many children do not receive the nurturing and education they need to prepare them for Kindergarten and life after the age of five. That is why Excel by 5 was launched in 2004.
Excel by 5 is designed to equip communities with the knowledge and resources needed to prepare kids under the age of five for that next big step in life.
Sheri White is the certification manager for West Point’s Excel by 5, and she will be representing the community at the program’s summit in Jackson on Wednesday.
“The fact that West Point is a certified Excel by 5 community says that we are a good place to raise children from birth to 5,” White said.
White does a number of things with the program in West Point, including connecting with local day cares and holding three major community events per year. Excel by 5 just got done with its annual Children’s Health Fair.
“We try to offer services to children and families that might not be available to them,” White said.
White says that even though she operates within the West Point School District, Excel by 5 is not a school initiative.
“This is a community initiative,” White said. “We try to bring together the public schools, the private schools, the day cares, and we want the churches to all come together.”
White says that things that are done between the time a mother becomes pregnant and the time the child is 5 are very important. Excel by 5 gives mothers tips on giving a child the preparation it needs from things like playing classical music while the child is still in the womb to reading to the child from pregnancy and after.
Aside from the health fair, White says Excel by 5 has hosted a Dad’s Day, which is designed to educate new fathers, particularly teen fathers, on the responsibility that lies ahead of them. White also coordinates a teen mom support program outside of Excel by 5.
The other major even has also been a Kindergarten Readiness Day, which was successful in back in March.
White says that the schools’ involvement in the program is just the tip of the iceberg.
“We have to have the businesses on board, as well as the city,” White said. “We use the city parks for our events. It’s about everyone pulling together to help our children prepare for Kindergarten.”
West Point is currently one of only eight certified communities in the state. Oktibbeha County is the closest to be certified. West Point is up for its third certification, having been in the program since 2004.
“This is a very narrow window of opportunity,” White said. “If a child falls behind before the age of 5, they might struggle and be behind in school from now on.