MARQUETTE - A local organization is raising money that will help fund education services for 3-year olds who would typically be unable to attend school.
This spring, the Marquette-Alger Great Start Collaborative received a grant from the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, a public-private partnership aimed at improving child care services provided to families with young kids.
"We have an opportunity to match as much as $100,000 for 3-year-olds to attend a preschool program," said Amy Conover, a Marquette County parent liaison with the collaborative. "The idea would be that we can make that preschool experience available to kids who would not be able to have that experience until age 4."
Education for 3-year-olds, shown in this stock image, will be the beneficiary of a local effort to match grant funds to receive as much as $100,000. (Journal file photos)
The GSC has until the end of July to raise funds and the total ECIC grant amount will match that dollar amount, up to $100,000.
Marquette-Alger GSC Director Kathy Lammi was informed in late spring that the grant had been approved and immediately began sending out letters to local businesses soliciting donations. In the last month, the organization has raised $14,748.
"I'm very pleased and I'm sure that we can make it," Lammi said of the progress toward the $100,000 goal. "We just need people to understand what this will do for our community."
Lammi and Conover both said the first three years of a child's life are the most important developmental years.
"Research shows that, specifically within the first three years, the amount of brain development going on surpasses any other time in their life," Conover said. "Their brain is growing faster in those first three years than it will ever grow again."
The grant money will provide scholarships for the children to attend preschool classes in schools currently operating in the two-county area. Lammi said schools must apply to be considered and will undergo a review process prior to approval. She hopes to have at least 20 locations.
"The second part is that the families would apply for a grant at the end of July," she said. "We're looking at children that live in 200 percent of poverty or less and at kids with certain risk factors."
Though the rates differ with family sizes, 200 percent of the poverty level for a family of four would be $44,100.
The matching funds collected locally can come in the form of private donations or as grants for which the GSC acts as the fiduciary. That money will be used to help the collaborative move toward goals in its strategic plan.
Current plans call for campaigns to reduce maternal smoking rates and prenatal drug exposure, as well as a social-emotional health campaign.
Both sources of money are extremely important, said Lammi, who sent out four rounds of letters to local businesses and organizations in order to solicit donations. Children who get more attention early on, she said, are almost always better for it.
"They are more successful, not just in school, but in life," Lammi said. "They are more likely to finish school. They are more likely to get a good job. They are more likely to not get into the prison system.
"There are so many positive, positive things about the whole process and that's why we put so much effort into this whole thing."
Applications, for both preschools and students, can be found at the GSC website, www.greatstartma.org.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.