Early Childhood Bus Tour focuses on school readiness in Durham
Posted on 05.19.2014, Monday

Last week, the Partnership hosted community leaders and volunteers for another Early Childhood Bus Tour. This event, sponsored by Mechanics and Farmers Bank, is a way for us to invite participants to learn more about our work throughout Durham and view the community through the lens of early childhood.

Nearly 25 people joined us on Wednesday, May 14th as we traveled to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Primary Colors Child Care Center, and Lakewood Elementary. We kicked off the event by asking attendees to build Blast-Off to Kindergarten Kits, which is one of many volunteer opportunities here at the Partnership. These kits are a key part of the Transition to Kindergarten Initiative, and we delivered the kits built by our guests during the tour. After introductions and kit-building, attendees heard from Queron Smith, Senior Vice President/City Executive of Mechanics and Farmers Bank, about their commitment to the needs of Durham’s young children and community. Smith’s daughter was also in attendance, and she informed us she was “getting ready for kindergarten” and got the tour off to a great start!

The first stop on the tour was St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where attendees saw an extraordinary community-based program, LEAP, that showcases how the Partnership’s Early Childhood Faith Initiative and the community impact school readiness. The faith community has an important role to play in the development of young children, and our Faith Initiative was born out of a desire to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood issues and the availability of resources.

The Latino Educational Achievement Partnership (LEAP) pre-k program, is a collaboration of St. Luke’s, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church, and Iglesia El Buen Pastor. What began as one volunteer providing English-as-a-Second-Language tutoring to adults has developed into a center that serves 24 children in its pre-k classrooms and provides tutoring to 20 school-aged children. It is a testament to the power of collaboration and the dedication of faith community volunteers.

The next stop on the tour was Primary Colors Child Care Center, a 5-star center that serves children funded through the NC Pre-K program. NC Pre-K Coordinator Jena Carter discussed markers of high quality early care and education – including learning environment materials, teacher education, and assessment tools – which was then showcased as participants had a chance to tour two NC Pre-K classrooms and see some enthusiastic young learners in action! The group also saw children learning through play in the outdoor learning environment, and Primary Colors is currently working with the NC State Natural Learning Initiative to make their outdoor learning environment even more dynamic and effective.

Our final stop was Lakewood Elementary, home to one of our Transition to Kindergarten (TTK) Initiative’s Transition Teams. The transition teams are comprised of teachers, parents and school administrators, all with the common goal of wanting to make kindergarten an exciting and welcoming place for new students and families in their community. Tour participants heard from Wren Davisson, TTK Program Coordinator at the Partnership, as well as La’ Kesha Roberts, Principal of Lakewood Elementary. After learning more about the TTK Initiative and the significance of a smooth transition to kindergarten, attendees toured a kindergarten classroom and saw firsthand the huge difference between pre-k and kindergarten.

All participants left the bus tour with a deeper understanding of the scope of the Partnership’s work, as well as the need for community-wide commitment and efforts to ensure that every child in Durham enters school healthy and ready to succeed. As we emphasized that morning, school readiness is everybody’s business, and we need all sectors of the community working toward a common goal of building children for success.

One way you can join this work is to participate in the School Readiness Summit on July 21st. You can also get involved by volunteering, signing up for our email list for news and advocacy alerts, subscribing to this blog, following us on facebook, and joining us on a bus tour! Our next tour is scheduled for September 16th, so please contact Krissy Dunn if you are interested in attending.