Education

Thanking the women of IMPACT 100 for their faith

SCI project manager Shannon Nickinson with children at Jamison Street Preschool in West Pensacola.

My mid-life resolution is to be more like Eddie Vedder.

“Lucky and grateful are two things I am every day,” said Vedder, the lead singer of Pearl Jam. He was the last of his bandmates to speak at the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month.

Pearl Jam is music of my time. They were my generation’s howl into the universe. And now they are 50-something dudes — ADULTS — with short hair and children of their own and their parents in tow at their induction ceremony.

As I have often he thought he has been, Eddie was right this time. Lucky and grateful are two things we should all be every day.

Which is why I was pleased that the women of IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area gave me the chance to express that gratitude this week. On May 2, the local philanthropy group hosted the recipients of their 2016 grants at Pensacola Little Theater.

There we were all able to share the progress we have made with the 10 grants awarded in the community last year.

The good fueled on by those grants is spreading all across our community, from tables at Jackson’s Steakhouse to the waters of Escambia Bay, to the land of the Santa Rosa Creek Indians to the maternity wards of Escambia County.

The women of IMPACT helped Studer Community Institute launch the Brain Bag initiative. And we were pleased to report that moms at Baptist, Sacred Heart and West Florida hospitals been receiving the early literacy gift bags, along with a lesson about how important talking and interacting with your child is from the earliest days of life.

We also are working on ways to expand the Brain Bags footprint in the community. The Escambia County Health Department nurses who do home visits with new moms will begin to teach the Brain Bags’s key touch points and review the material in the bag with their clients.

Because we don’t want the learning to be one-and-done.

Part of that effort will include the Light Up Learning fundraiser with Josh Sitton June 22 at Sanders Beach Corrine Jones Community Center.

Sitton, whose day job is is as an offensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, is also an SCI board member. He is also a great advocate to the cause of early education, so look forward to some great items up for auction to benefit SCI’s mission though:

Brain Bags. Early learning gift bags for every mother who gives birth in an Escambia County hospital. The bags include a one-on-one lesson on the importance of talking, reading and interacting with your baby from day one.

What’s in a Brain Bag?

It includes tools to help you do that such as a storybook that highlights the ABCs using our beautiful city, a baby book designed by SCI staff to help new parents track their baby’s brain development, a toy, and a binder that highlights community resources and more practical advice on how parents can use positive interaction to build a child’s readiness for kindergarten long before the first day of school.

Thirty Million Words Initiative research. SCI is bringing the University of Chicago’s research to our local hospitals starting with the newborn hearing test every infant has. Pensacola moms will join this research pool. 

First piloted with 500 families in the Chicago area, this video lesson collects some data about parents before and after they watch a video on the importance of language in the developing brain. The video features real parents modeling behaviors that will help them, Tune In, Talk Turns and Talk More, as our friends in Chicago say, with their babies.

Preliminary data shows the video lesson does increase parent knowledge about how they can influence their child’s intelligence. The local findings will help the team in Chicago refine their messaging, making it easier to spread the 3Ts throughout a community.

Parent outreach. Third is our parent outreach efforts, first through pop up community wide events and second through targeted small group sessions to meet parents where they are, in a non judgmental way. These sessions also will reinforce the power of parent talk and interaction to build a child’s brain.

Early learning in the environment. Here we need the support of businesses, churches, community centers, and civic groups to weave the concept of kindergarten readiness into public spaces.

We have worked on this through projects like the sensory garden at the Bodacious Brew drive-thru, the Upward Intuition skate park project planned on Hayne Street, and signage we have planned for public play spaces.

A look at the Early Learning Garden at the Bodacious Brew Drive-Thru. Credit: Ron Stallcup.

We want everyone to see the community the way we have learned to see it: As an ever-present, always open classroom full of chances to help adults and young children interact in a meaningful way.

I am lucky that I had parents and grandparents who read to me and talked with me.

I am grateful for the gift they gave me, even before they knew what a gift it was.