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GreenLight Fund Invests $1 Million in Early-Childhood Initiative


Imagine walking into a classroom for the first time having never held a book, done a puzzle, or used safety scissors. You don’t know how to sit still for storytime. You don’t even speak the same language as your peers or teachers.

According to Sarah Walzer, CEO of ParentChild+, 40% of children entering kindergarten in Charlotte aren’t ready to learn in a classroom setting, putting them on the wrong path before they can even get started.

“At every turn you don’t know what to do in that classroom. You have failed on your very first day of school, and that doesn’t make you love school or set you on a path to school success,” Walzer said at a press conference on Wednesday morning announcing a new initiative that aims to bring that percentage down and tackle the city’s infamous lack of economic mobility in the process.

ParentChild+, a national organization that works together with low-income children and their parents in their own homes to ensure children are ready to succeed in schools, announced its Charlotte launch on Wednesday, partnering with the Charlotte Housing Authority, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool and the UCity Family Zone and funded by a $1 million investment from GreenLight Fund Charlotte.

The local launch of ParentChild+ will help ensure kindergarten readiness for more than 400 Charlotte children. Students who have gone through the ParentChild+ program are 50% more likely to be prepared for kindergarten than their peers and see 30% higher graduation rates than their socioeconomic peers. On average, ParentChild+ children enter school performing 10 months above their chronological age.

“A day like today is a day that we dream about often and then it actually happens,” said Dr. Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, executive director of Leading on Opportunity, a local organization that works based on the recommendations suggestions of the Opportunity Task Force, which was formed in response to a 2015 Harvard study that ranked Charlotte 50th out of the country’s 50 largest cities in economic mobility.

“This investment connects directly to our early care and education strategies,” Cooper-Lewter continued. “It aligns and fills a gap where early care recommendations were not being addressed and says, ‘This is something that we can do differently as a community.’”

Part of the local ParentChild+ efforts will be centered in Southside Homes, a Charlotte Housing Authority complex consisting of 336 apartments where planners identified a need for ParentChild+ programming.

By hiring parents who live in Southside Homes to serve as early learning specialists, ParentChild+ will help continue increasing opportunity in a neighborhood where the Charlotte Housing Authority’s Jobs Plus program has helped increase the employment rate from 25% to 75% in four years.

Please click here to read the full article on Queen City Nerve.

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