Learning Together, Growing Together

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Even Start

Contributor: Nanci Micke, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at United Way Fox Cities

We recognize the importance of sending our children off to school ready to learn. For families who do not speak English as their first language that can be a challenge. When our United Way was approached to help establish an Even Start Program in Menasha, we responded with a $98,000 grant over three years.

The Even Start concept is unique because it includes both the children and the parents. Parents and children go to school together. As the children receive early childhood education, the parents learn skills to become more self-sufficient. These are the two components:

  1. Adults/Parents – The program provides Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English Language Learning (ELL) classes as well as General Educational Development Certificate/High School Equivalency Diploma (GED/HSED) programming to adults who need to learn English and/or complete a high school credential in order to increase their employment potential.

  2. Pre-K Children – The program simultaneously provides early childhood education to ensure children ages six weeks to six years are on track for kindergarten.

Even Start has operated out of the Menasha Boys and Girls Club for the past year, and will be moving to Gegan Elementary School, where they will have permanent classrooms. Partnerships and collaborations between Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC), the FVTC Early Childhood Education Department, and the Menasha Joint School District are vital aspects of the program.

The last twenty minutes of each day in the classroom, parents and children work on literacy together. The families have a goal of reading 1,000 books before the children go to kindergarten. Many books are provided by the Menasha Public Library, and there is a concentrated effort to provide books in both English and Spanish.

Each month, guest speakers share information with the parents. Plans for next year include having doctors from Mosaic Health visit and provide answers to questions.

During its first three years, the program expects to serve at least 40 at-risk families. At United Way, we are hopeful that this two-pronged approach, addressing both early childhood and adult education, will help move the needle on issues affecting low-income families.