Charlotte School Readiness Initiative Gets a Boost from Knight Foundation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Success By 6, an early care and education initiative that has prepared hundreds of Mecklenburg County's youngest and neediest children for school, will expand its program in north Charlotte.

The United Way of Central Carolinas, in partnership with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte Speech and Hearing and YMCA of Greater Charlotte, will use a $1.8 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to expand the program to reach 120 additional at-risk families with young children each year for five years. Parents will learn about child development and acquire better parenting skills, while children will have access to speech and language therapy. The initiative also provides families with mental health services, social services and health services.

“We work with those families with special needs to help children and their families become successful,” said Anita Self, senior director of community investment for the United Way. “We pull all the pieces together for families in these neighborhoods.”

One of Knight Foundation's funding objectives in Charlotte is to give children under the age of 5 the resources and skills they need to prepare for school. The foundation's Charlotte Community Advisory Committee — a group of local business, education and nonprofit leaders — wants to make sure that children in the city's poorest neighborhoods have access to health and education services to boost their chances of excelling in and out of the classroom, said Susan Patterson, Knight's program officer in Charlotte.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 2,800 families in Charlotte live in poverty. Knight research shows that many of these families have children under the age of 5 and live in public housing projects in the northern section of the city where Success By 6 will concentrate its efforts.

“Expanding the Success By 6 initiative in north Charlotte to serve more families that need more help requires a long-term commitment,” Patterson said. “The advisory committee believes expanding this proven initiative is particularly important during these difficult economic times.”

Success By 6 is just one of several grants Knight has made in the last year to ensure that children in Charlotte are ready to enter school and compete successfully. Last year, Knight gave Smart Start of Mecklenburg County $750,000 to expand the state pre-kindergarten program More At Four. Child Care Resources received $250,000 to train teachers that are part of that program.

“The community is increasingly aware of the importance of early childhood development,” Patterson said. “However, much of the focus has been on literacy. We realize the need to develop a separate strategy that focuses on giving children the emotional, social, and physical skills needed to develop into successful adults. That's why Success By 6 is so important.”

United Way of Central Carolinas adopted Success By 6 in 1991. The initiative, created to help young children hone their developmental skills, is available in more than 330 United Ways across the country.

Each participating United Way pulls together leaders from business, government, labor, education and health and human services agencies to create the program. Success By 6 also sets out to improve access to services and to encourage public policies that improve the lives of children and families in each community.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of 26 U.S. communities.


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