HANCOCK - With federal funding for sending 3-year-olds to preschool nearly non-existent, the Copper Country Great Start Collaborative is helping several local children out with Early Childhood Fund scholarships.
The CCGSC received $100,000 through a grant from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2011, and used that money for scholarships last year. However, the matching funds raised by the community will help provide approximately 10 scholarships for the 2012-13 school year, according to Shelly Smith, CCGSC director.
"The cost of preschool is really prohibitive unless you're making a lot of money," Smith said. "This group is a really good one to target, as there is no federal funding for 3-year-olds but there is for 4-year-olds."
Starting children's schooling early is a key facet of a child's development, and these scholarships will help foster a child's social skills and help them be prepared for kindergarten, Smith said.
"There's a lot of research behind the effectiveness of early childhood learning," she said. "It definitely is helpful in order to be better prepared for school, but there are a whole bunch of other factors as well. There are a lot of long-term benefits."
There are a few guidelines to determine eligibility for the scholarships. Income is the main basis, as families in Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw counties must be at or less than the 200 percent poverty income guidelines. Children must also be at least 3 years old on or before Dec. 1, 2012. Beyond income, other risk factors will be taken into account as necessary - the same risk factors considered in determining Great Start Readiness Program eligibility.
The income and risk factor guidelines can be found on the application, which can be printed off from the Copper Country Great Start website at ccgreatstart.org. Applications for both families and providers are available. A hard copy of the application is also available by calling the Great Start office at 482-4250. The application deadline is Aug. 13.
Scholarships may be used for preschools, preschools/day care center or a day care center with certain processes in place, according to Smith.
Smith is grateful not only for the grant, but also for the generosity of the community in supporting early childhood education.
"We appreciate the community being willing to donate to this early start funding, especially in such difficult economic times," Smith said. "The fact that they were able to raise $100,000 is pretty amazing."
For more information, visit ccgreatstart.org or contact Smith at 482-4250 ext. 186 or firstname.lastname@example.org.