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Local programs prepare for "On My Way Pre-k" roll out

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Pre-kindergarten advocates in the area are working together to reach more children.

This comes as state support for early childhood programs makes its way to St. Joseph County.

Ready to Grow St. Joe held an informational at the United Way of St. Joseph County building Wednesday.

More than 50 pre-k program providers showed up to learn more about the state’s On My Way Pre-k expansion set to roll out in January.

“It’s the foundation, and I know that children at that age, there’s nothing you can’t teach them,” said Sabrina Chase, the founder of Forever Blessed Daycare. “We do our best to teach them the correct things. I go as far as teaching manners, saying ‘thank you.’ It’s the little things that really build a child’s character.”

It’s been 11 years since Chase opened her day care.

She says there’s still a lot she can learn.

“How I can become a better teacher, how I can be more beneficial to the children, in every aspect,” she said.

For over a decade, she’s worked her way up to becoming a level 3 Pre-k provider.

It’s one of the programs eligible for state support.

Indiana has a unique rating system ranked 1 through 4.

Level 3 indicates the program’s curriculum supports children’s learning and school readiness, invests in staff professional development, and incorporates input from families.

In St. Joseph County, there are about 60 programs that rank 3 or above.

That’s nearly double the number of programs available in 2014.

And even with state support soon-to-be-available for those providers, there’s still work to do.

“It’s going to take a lot of us to come together around this topic,” said Emily Rupchock, the coordinator of Ready to Grow St. Joe. “So to have investment from multiple sectors is really exciting and a step in the right direction.”

A step toward universal Pre-k in Indiana would be invaluable to quite a few educators.

“We want our youngest learners to arrive and begin kindergarten feeling successful, confident and comfortable,” said Betsy Hostetler, quality coach for Indiana AEYC.

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