2014 is already looking bright for Kearney Public Schools.
The Trustees of the Sixpence Early Learning Fund announced KSP will receive grant awards of about $174,000 beginning in the New Year.
The grant will fund early childhood programs serving at-risk infants and toddlers building anew or expanding programs for the state's youngest learners.
"Sixpence is about helping Nebraska's parents provide safe, stimulating and supportive environments and relationships for their children during the critical early years of life," said Amy Bornemeier, grant administrator for the fund.
Bornemeier said the program can make a real impact on families who have trouble providing those kinds of experiences for their youngest children.
KPS will be able reach out to at-risk children up to age three to support the family's needs. Home-based staff will make monthly home visits to the families with information on language development, social/emotional factors, and cognitive growth.
KPS Associate Superintendent, Carol Renner, said the early intervention will provide a lifelong benefit to the children by empowering their parents or guardians and giving them the ability and means to provide enriching experiences for their kids.
"We are so thrilled and appreciative that the Sixpence Foundation has selected us twice this year. The first Sixpence grant funded a center-based program for toddlers," said Renner.
Roger Breed, who recently retired as Commissioner of the Nebraska Department of Education, explained that Sixpence's goal is to prepare more of Nebraska's at-risk children to enter the K-12 system on par with their peers. He said this reduces the achievement gap and improves their chances for lifelong success.
Bornemeier said Sixpence "represents collaboration between the Nebraska Departments of Education and Health and Human Services, and private investors at the state and local level. Our partners and investors demand a high degree of accountability for the dollars we invest."
The accountability is on the shoulders of the community benefiting from the program.
Grantees are held to a rigorous evaluation process, and match their grant awards with local funds. Bornemeier noted that each community was required to provide matching funds to show a local commitment to this level of early childhood education.
For more information about the Sixpence Early Learning Fund, visit www.singasongofsixpence.org.