9-9-15 CIZ fed visitThe Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC) President and CEO Janice R. Black today joined Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera, U.S. Department of Education’s Early Learning Deputy Assistant Secretary Dr. Libby Doggett and other local and federal representatives to visit TFEC’s Parents & Partners early learning family support initiative. The Parents & Partners initiative is one of Pennsylvania’s Community Innovation Zone grants, funded partially through the state’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant.

“We’re thrilled to demonstrate some of the great work our program has accomplished,” said President and CEO Janice R. Black, “It’s no secret that this particular stage in one’s life is most crucial in their brain and personality development, we can make a difference and help these children be successful through these partnerships and programs.”

TFEC developed the Parents & Partners program through the Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone Grant of $75,000 a year for three years, with a match from TFEC, local partners and organizations of approximately $80,000 annually. The overarching goal of Parents & Partners is to wrap support around the whole family and address crucial economic and educational issues by providing early learning education to close the achievement gap by third grade. The program broadens current community resources to give children and families the tools they need to be successful while also building strong partnerships between families, the community, early learning providers and schools. Harrisburg School District is a primary partner of the program helping to reduce the number of at-risk children within the district. In addition, Capital Area Head Start, a division of Keystone Human Services, is an instrumental partner to the program that is working to reach underserved families on waiting lists to provide training assistance and support.

Black and event participants visited Downey Elementary School in the Harrisburg School District to see both Parents & Partners and Head Start classrooms.

“High quality early education is critical to children’s success in school and in life,” said Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera. “We are pleased that more than 100 children have been served by Head Start and Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts in this school. With the help of the Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone grant, this community is leveraging state and local resources to provide the best possible start for these children.”

“Communities must work together to support vulnerable children and families,” said Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Ted Dallas. “I’m grateful to see the Parents & Partners program flourishing with the help of community partners, because it’s addressing a vital need in our capital region, providing support and education to families that need it most.”

The first year of Parents & Partners focused on families whose children would attend Downey and Foose Elementary Schools in Harrisburg, however moving forward the program will include all five elementary schools in the Harrisburg School District with goals to expand further in future years.

The Community Innovation Zones are part of Pennsylvania’s Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. In 2014, Pennsylvania issued 12 grants to neighborhoods and local communities to help bridge the achievement gap for at-risk young children. In 2015, Pennsylvania will issue 38 additional grants for a total of 50 Community Innovation Zones statewide. For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education website, www.education.state.pa.us.

The work done to increase school readiness, literacy, and family engagement will have an immediate and positive impact on the lives of local children and families now and into the future. The Early Childhood Engagement Group, formerly the Dauphin County LEARN, guides the work of this partnership.

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