Early Childhood Bus Tour focuses on school readiness in Durham
Posted on 02.17.2014, Monday

Last week, the Partnership hosted community leaders and volunteers on the first Early Childhood Bus Tour of 2014. 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 30 people joined us on Tuesday, Feb. 11th as we traveled to El Centro Hispano, White Rock Child Development Center, and Welcome Baby. 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 last stop of the tour. After introductions and kit-building, attendees saw a short video about Delecia UtleyDelecia encompasses our theme of “Built to Succeed” and is a shining example of what long-term success looks like thanks to a solid start in early childhood.

The first stop on the tour was El Centro Hispano. The Partnership provides Smart Start funding for several programs at El Centro, including Circle of Parents and Motherread, which showcase the role of the community and parents in a child’s early years. We heard from Pilar Rocha, President of El Centro, as well as Andrea de la Torre, a participant in several of El Centro’s parent programs. Andrea spoke about the challenges she faces and how El Centro has had an impact on her family, saying that “El Centro helps me be a better mother.”

The next stop on the tour was White Rock Child Development Center, a 5-star center funded through the NC Pre-K program. White Rock Director Jennifer Lacewell discussed markers of high quality early care and education – including learning environment materials, teacher education, and teacher interaction with children – which was then showcased as participants had a chance to tour the two NC Pre-K classrooms and see some enthusiastic young learners in action! Another highlight of the tour was the opportunity to hear from the founder of White Rock, Elizabeth Frasier. At 90 years old, Frasier has spent her entire life working in education, with a focus on early childhood. Her stirring testimony made a huge impression on the group as she explained how she views educators as “world changers, not teachers.”

Our final stop was Welcome Baby, a program of the Durham County Cooperative Extension. Welcome Baby is also a funded program of the Partnership and offers a large variety of parent education and support services in Durham County.  These include developmental newsletters and parenting workshops, the car seat safety program, Cribs for Kids, and the Giving Closet. Melva Henry, Director of Welcome Baby, discussed the Incredible Years parent program, which tour attendees had an opportunity to observe. Wren Davisson, Transition to Kindergarten Program Coordinator at the Partnership, also spoke to the guests about Transition to Kindergarten and how community resource centers such as Welcome Baby help prepare children to be ready for school. The tour was capped off with the presentation of the Blast-Off to Kindergarten Kits that were built earlier that morning.

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. One participant noted, “I get the feeling that this was the tip of the iceberg of the work the Partnership does!” To that end, we invite you to learn more about our work and get involved – volunteer, join our email list for news and advocacy alerts, subscribe to this blog, follow us on Facebook, and join us on our next bus tour! Tours are already scheduled for May 14th and September 16th, so please contact Krissy Dunn if you are interested in attending a future bus tour.