Summit will focus on early childhood education in Elkhart County

Local education groups can earn a $500 incentive grant from the United Way this year.

Posted on Nov. 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Nov. 13, 2013 at 2:48 p.m.

GOSHEN — Local organizations are getting together for a third year to discuss early childhood education at United Way of Elkhart County’s “Success by Six” summit.

But this year, there are a few new elements to the Friday, Nov. 15, event. Glenda Ritz, Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, will be the guest speaker. And the United Way is offering $500 “incentive grants” to organizations that partner up and create an action plan for getting kids ready to start school.

Darren Bickel, vice president of community investment for the United Way, said this year’s event is focused on forming relationships between local child care providers and local schools. Providers and school representatives will be organized into groups based on geographical locations and encouraged to work together.

“The United Way will put incentive grants in play, so if the groups come out with an action plan in January they can get a $500 incentive grant if they want to try something yet this school year,” Bickel said.

The United Way has set aside funds to give a grant to each of the teams at the summit, if those teams pursue a project on their own after the summit is over.

“We’ve talked for a while about building relationships. Now let’s really move it forward,” Bickel said, explaining the grants.

He added that Success by Six doesn’t bring in experts on early childhood education from other states. One of the purposes of the summit is to highlight initiatives already happening in Elkhart County.

“Our presenters are coming from Merit, the Elkhart Area Career Center, the new Title I preschool in Goshen,” Bickel said. “This is a chance for us to highlight local folks.”

He said that another goal of the summit is to keep people talking about the need for kids to have certain skills going into kindergarten.

“The reality is, we have a shortage in Elkhart County of good childcare for the amount of people who need that,” Bickel said. “Schools now more than ever are paying attention to how kids come to them on the first day.”

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