Studer Community Institute

Update: Building a community to build a baby’s brain

To get children ready for kindergarten takes a community working together.

At the heart of Studer Community Institute’s mission of improving the Pensacola Metro’s quality of life is getting more kids ready for kindergarten.

As the part of my role as parent outreach coordinator, I visit and meet with various organizations, agencies, churches and people to find out how best to reach parents of children ages 0 to 3 to help them get their kids ready for the start of their education.

For the past few weeks, I’ve made partnerships with agencies like Head Start and Healthy Start and created relationships with daycares and preschools with the goal of helping parents help their children reach developmental milestones.

Last week, a follow-up visit with Pensacola Area Housing Commission will open doors and give access to the right people we need to see.

Shirley Henderson, assistant director and director of social services, understands and supports the plan to provide services to parents in the surrounding neighborhood. Henderson is onboard to ensure that parents under the services of area housing will have access to any program SCI provides.

She’s in the process of finding out how many mothers with children between the ages of 0 to 3 live in the eight housing complexes, including Attucks, Moreno and Gonzales courts, areas identified as “pockets of poverty.”

Pensacola Area Housing Commission works with social service providers to assist its tenants in developing necessary coping and problem-solving skills for daily living. Our partnership will go a long way in helping to meet that goal.

Another key contact was made with Dr. Cheryl Perry, chaplain and director of The Family Center Pathways for Change. Perry runs several programs for women, men, parents and children at The Family Center. She offered professional support and expertise in program development and management, as well as access to a wide range of resources and participants from area housing complexes surrounding the Family Center.

Earlier in the week I was among the speakers at ECARE’s annual ReadingPals luncheon. ECARE, an acronym for Every Child’s A Reader in Esacambia, has the goal of helping pre-kindergarten students build strong pre-literacy needed for success in kindergarten.

As an ECARE ReadingPal volunteer, I was asked to share my experiences with my “Little Pal,”and talk about SCI’s strategies and initiatives related to early learning and kindergarten readiness. With more than 100 volunteers, board members and community leaders in attendance, the luncheon afforded me the opportunity to share with the community our plans and goals.

I ended the week Saturday at Pensacola High School talking to some 500 people about the Institute’s approach to helping build stronger and better brains in babies and finding ways to reach mothers to assist them in getting their children ready for school.

In his 30th year of producing gospel/comedy plays in Pensacola, Leroy Williams, community activist and director of PCARA (Pensacola Community Arts and Recreation) allowed me to open his two shows to share our work with the attendees.

I also set up a booth to share information and answer questions about the work we’re doing to, as our motto says, “Build a Brain, Build a Life, Build a Community.”

Each week, every day is another opportunity to meet someone or some organization that has similar goals of helping children get ready for kindergarten and making Pensacola America’s First Early Learning City.

If you want to help or know someone who has ideas, suggestions or just want to talk about SCI’s labor of love in early learning, email rdogan@studeri.org, or call (850) 529-6485.

A community that works together, grows together.