Major grant awarded for school readiness program
The Carbondale-based Manaus Fund has received a $1.2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the new Valley Settlement Project (VPS).The project is aimed at helping children in low-income families from Parachute to Aspen be more ready for school and achieve success in elementary school.It also will work to provide more economic stability for families, by educating and retraining parents with language and computer skills, and help them obtain their high school graduation equivalency.VPS is a three-year, $3 million, “settlement house-inspired program,” according to a press release from the organization, which focuses on social justice issues.”Settlement houses existed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in crowded immigrant neighborhoods of industrial cities where settlement workers provided services for neighbors and sought to remedy poverty,” the release explained.”As settlement house residents learned more about their communities, they became more engaged, proposing changes in local government and lobbied for state and federal legislation on social and economic problems.”Matching funds are now being sought to implement the various programs included in the project.”Kellogg’s grant is an enormous investment in our valley,” said Rob Pew, board president for the Manaus Fund. “VSP will not only change hundreds of lives, it will strengthen our schools and communities making the valley a better place for all of us.”Programs are to include:• “Neighborhood Navigators,” to connect families to needed resources.• Parent mentors: Providing training and support for parents to participate in their child’s school as classroom mentors.• After school programming: Providing academic and enrichment activities for elementary school children.• Adult education: English language, computer and GED preparation classes for parents.• Family, Friends & Neighbors/Licensed Home Child Care: Training to improve quality, informal day care.• “El Busesito” (The Little Bus): A mobile, early childhood education program providing learning experiences for parents and children, ages 0-5, who lack access to traditional preschool programs.The idea is to work with local organizations to fill gaps in services and connect families to resources though a team of community organizers, said Ellen Freedman, executive director of the Manaus Fund. That’s not as easy or as obvious as it might appear, she said.”Prior to awarding this grant, the Kellogg Foundation and The Manaus Fund invested in nine months of interviewing parents, community agencies and public schools to identify barriers and potential needs to improve the settlement of the low-income families in our valley,” she said.That work included one-on-one interviews in 300 homes in 25 neighborhoods, and meetings with leaders of dozens of schools, churches, health and human service agencies and other organizations across the region.”More than 400 people were convened in a variety of meetings, and presentations were made to 14,400 individuals,” Freedman said. “These efforts yielded a tremendous amount of information to help us identify the barriers to accessing existing resources and gaps in services.”The programs were identified through that process, she said.”VSP’s community organizing approach is tremendously exciting and unique in our valley,” Freedman said. “We believe it is key to building trust and empowerment and connecting families with needed services.”
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