Homer Strong Supported by Albion-Homer United Way Grant

Albion-Homer United Way is helping make Homer families feel connected to their community schools through its Homer Strong Early Childhood Grant.

The grant is designed to help Homer children feel “confident and ready for school when they walk through those doors for the first time,” according to Kayle Wilson, Calhoun County Intermediate School District (CISD) Early Childhood Family Coach. The AHUW grant supports the mission of the local United Way to provide “long-lasting changes that prevent problems from happening” in community members lives.

AHUW provided a portion of the funding for this Homer early childhood program. In this AUHW grant cycle, money has been directed toward education, particularly involving early childhood intervention. The Homer Strong program is part of the early childhood services provided by the CISD. The focus of these services is school readiness. When a child is ready for school, according to CISD Early Childhood Services, it is a better experience for both children and their parents. School readiness significantly affects everything from reading at grade level to higher high school graduation rates. These goals dovetail with the goals of the AHUW.

According to Marcia Starkey, AHUW executive director, the focus on early intervention programs fulfills the local United Way goals of improving third grade reading competencies, a deciding factor in high school graduation rates. In addition, these early interventions are designed to help parents develop skills they need to be the child’s first teacher.

Homer Strong focusses on birth as the optimal time to begin thinking about school readiness, starting with Welcome Baby Education Visits, which helps the CISD focus attention on these children to help provide preschool intervention services to assist with school readiness. Funding from the AUUW grant provides help in five planned areas.

  • School district relationship building items for Welcome Baby Visits to help form a strong bond between parents and the Homer schools.

  • Homer Strong t-shirts to develop a sense of belonging for K-12 families with the Homer schools.

  • Kindergarten Transition Backpacks Program which gives families not only items to engage and excite upcoming kindergarteners over the summer before enrolling, but also provides opportunities to meet teachers and visit classrooms. The backpack contents help hone school skills and provide a sense of belonging.

  • Provide books because literacy is important, beginning at birth. In addition to providing books for new babies, siblings also receive books to help them continue to progress in their literacy growth.

  • Playgroups are also an important part of the grant. Age-appropriate materials for these weekly playgroups are important to allow children to explore and express themselves.

The support of the AHUW grant to partially fund the CISD program components further fulfils the goals of the local United Way to make the communities it serves help provide ways to make children and families successful. This success helps form productive, healthy and successful adults. Homer is stronger because of the AHUW.

Tim Krause