Born Learning initiative focuses on children before they get to school
With a mission that all children in Portage County will be safe, healthy and ready for kindergarten, the newly named Born Learning initiative will create a new system of support for families prenatally, and with children age 5 and younger.
Since announcing this early years-focused initiative last year, community partners, along with United Way of Portage County, have been working collectively to build a community system that creates and invests in opportunities for children to realize lifelong success. The intent is to close the academic achievement gap that exists in the community.
The first phase of Born Learning will be to fund home visitation services to families who need support during the earliest years of life. Home visitors will visit families, bringing educational materials and resources that promote child development, health, safety and family support.
“Born Learning is an opportunity for local citizens to work together to achieve a strong economic future for Portage County,” said Lisa Falduto, the Born Learning engagement specialist for United Way of Portage County. “As private businesses and public organizations continue to make a strong commitment to this effort, we will create health and education equity for our youngest children. All Portage County children will be safe, healthy and ready for kindergarten.”
Falduto said all of the partners at the table are working on specifics about the Born Learning system. The public and private partners include United Way, Delta Dental of Wisconsin, Ministry Health Care, Sentry Insurance, Stevens Point Area Public School District, Aspirus, Skyward, Marshfield Clinic, Rosholt School District and Portage County Health & Human Services. Steering committee representatives overseeing the initiative include representatives from those partners, as well as other community leaders.
A $92,633 Race to the Top planning grant from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Wisconsin Division of Children and Families received in September 2015 has allowed the partners to move forward with Born Learning, Falduto noted.
People can learn more at a Thursday, Sept. 22, event open to the public. The first Born Learning Summit will take place at Sentry’s Theater@1800 on that date, with a community resource fair from 8:30 to 9 a.m. and the summit from 9 a.m. to noon.
Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an expert on the importance of the early years, will speak on “Early Brain and Child Development (including Toxic Stress and Childhood Adversity).” This will be followed by Portage County Health & Human Services’ presentation on “The Welfare of Children in Portage County.”
The summit will conclude with a Born Learning panel discussion featuring Dr. Navsaria, Portage County Health & Human Services Director Ray Przybelski, Sen. Julie Lassa, Rep. Katrina Shankland and United Way of Portage County Executive Director Sue Wilcox.
More information about Born Learning is available online at www.unitedwaypoco.org/bornlearning or by calling 715-341-6740.