Sumter County's Pre-K program is a Jump Start to K (Kindergarten) for children in Sumter County. It's a FREE Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program, and space is limited so parents and legal guardians are urged to act quickly to complete the paperwork and get their child into the program. Registration is open for any child living in the county that turns 4 on or before September 1st, regardless of income. The program is offered Monday through Friday, and follows the regular school calendar.
The goal for every child in the program is to prepare the child for a standard school program so they can succeed in school and life, and to have them leave the program with a love of reading and learning. The sad reality is that once a child falls behind, he or she usually stays behind forever. The money collected from groups like ours helps provide books for classroom libraries and supplies. Books are the bridge to a child's future, building the foundation for them to succeed in school and in life. We could not find a better place to put our money... to make a difference in the lives of children. They are very frugal with donations, stretching the dollars as far as possible, asking companies for discount coupons, free shipping, anything they can think of to spread that money further. They "squeeze that money until it squeals."
At every Ladies Book Club meeting, an envelope is passed around the room. Members donate whatever they want. The collection is completely voluntary. Each month, Eileen Roberta reports the amount donated so far. The fund is closed at the end of the year and a new collection starts the beginning of the new year. Jeanne Harris-Lively, social worker for the Sumter County Pre-K Program, usually comes to the February meeting to accept our donation from the previous year. Most times, she also comes with the program's Early Childhood Specialist to give us an update on the program, how last year's donation was spent, and plans for the upcoming year. If you'd like to make a donation to this fund at any time during the year, mail it to:
Eileen will add it to the pot.
This year, Eileen was pleased to announce that club members contributed $800 in 2021 and presented the check to Jeanne Harris-Lively. Jeanne explained that she was alone this year so we'd have to do with her list of things she wanted to share. The program has been extremely short-handed this year because of Covid, and this is the first year that Jeanne's ever had absolutely NO applicants to fill staff positions, so Susan couldn't be spared. They've even got Jeanne doing double duty, coming in on Fridays to help out. They are limited to 200 children (I believe the program used to take 300 children); they'd need more staff to accommodate more children.
Jeanne thanked us. Our donation is so welcome to the Jump Start to K program. Our much needed donation will go into buying books for the classroom libraries, holiday gift books for the children so they have a book of their own at home, baby shower gift bags with a flier espousing the importance of early reading, and for the inevitable emergency situations. The books they buy for the classroom libraries are pretty sturdy so they're able to stand up to handling by 4 year olds, so they'll last several years before having to be replaced.
Covid has been very stressful on everyone. We often think of parents being stressed, but the children feel it and are stressed, too. Recent book purchases for the classrooms have focused on social and emotional issues to help the children cope. Social and emotional issues are often ignored in curriculums, but it's very important for a child to be able to learn. They've been starting the day with those kinds of books to help the children calm themselves.
Someone asked where their funding comes from? She said mainly funding comes from groups like ours. School funding from the state barely covers the salaries of staff, and the Pre-K program only got a very tiny slice of the money given to the schools through the Covid relief fund. They've also received money from the Sumter County Memorial Fund, but it's not consistent. They are so grateful to groups like ours that give year after year.
They've recently acquired books that children can write in for their Handwriting without Tears pre-school program to help develop eye-hand coordination and cognitive skills. (Click on Handwriting without Tears to learn why teaching handwriting is so important. Also, Psychology Today identifies five brain-based reasons for teaching writing.)
She thanked us again before she went back to work.