United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area and its partners brought a summit focused on presenting best practices around how to transition children into kindergarten. Earlier this year, NYS Department of Education held a similar Kindergarten Transition Summit where local communities who attended could apply to bring this summit to their region. United Way’s committee of community partners was chosen and awarded $10,125 to host this one-of-a-kind summit to the three county area including Oneida, Herkimer, and Madison counties. The committee led by United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area consists of Child Care Council of Cornell Cooperative Extension, CNYHHN Care Management Services, Dolgeville Central School, Madison-Oneida BOCES, Mohawk Valley Community Action Agency, NYSB5, Rome City School District, and SUNY Polytechnic.

The Kindergarten Transition Summit welcomed more than 200 individuals from the three county area with backgrounds in early education and working with children including School Administrators, CPSE/CSE, child care staff, United Way’s Ready for Kindergarten members, parents of Pre-K & Kindergartners, librarians, law enforcement, health care providers, mental health providers & community service providers.

“This summit brings more than just one entity to the table. It’s not just the responsibility of the school or just the community to make sure our children succeed, it’s bringing the whole community to work together to better prepare local children for kindergarten” said Robin Robinson, United Way’s Director of Initiatives and Grants.

Summit participants spent the day receiving resources and assistance to evaluate and enhance their current kindergarten transition plan or to create a new Kindergarten Transition Plan to prepare children to enter kindergarten. Beyond the actual creation of a transition plan for the participating communities, United Way will offer each school/community that creates a new innovative plan the opportunity to apply for funding to implement a piece of their proposal. A total of $4,000 in funding will be available for attendees to receive anywhere from $100 to $1,000. Funding awards will be chosen through RFP to United Way’s Ready for Kindergarten committee.

“United Way has the unique ability to convene the right partners and resources so we can create new solutions together” stated Erin Matt, Executive Director of United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area. “Collaborating on how to best prepare children to enter kindergarten is one of the most high-impact areas of focus that we can invest in; this is a commitment to the future of our community.”

At today’s summit, 84% of school districts throughout Oneida, Herkimer and Madison counties were represented. Those school districts have a combined just over 1,000 children entering kindergarten in the coming year. The Kindergarten Transition Plans will help impact each of those children as they enter school.

“The most important time to make an impact on child development is in their first 5 years. We can only change the outcomes for children if we intervene early and we involve the family, the schools, and the community” said Dr. Joann Joseph of SUNY Polytechnic and United Way’s Ready for Kindergarten committee. “By creating this transition plan for each community, we are able to prepare children to enter kindergarten, and therefore are able to better prepare them for life.”

The summit included a panel of several local educators also discussed successful transition practices and Keynote Speaker, Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, Executive Director, Brazelton Touchpoints Center Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Sparrow is principal investigator for the National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (Office of Head Start, Office of Child Care, ACF, HHS), and is part-time associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Sparrow, co-author of nine books on children’s development, and hundreds of articles on related topics for academic and general audiences, has lectured extensively nationally and internationally.

To learn more about United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area, their Ready for Kindergarten program or to make a donation, visit their website at www.unitedwayvgu.org.


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