TROY-Kellogg Pre-K partnership expands scope in Wiregrass

The program, which helps early education centers better prepare children for kindergarten, will now include 3-year-olds for the first time.

The program, which helps early education centers better prepare children for kindergarten, will now include 3-year-olds for the first time.

Troy University’s Project Pre-K to K Transition is expanding its scope once again as it moves into its third and final year.

The program, aimed at helping Dothan-area preschoolers better prepare for kindergarten, will now extend its focus to include a class of 3-year-olds in addition to the 4-year-olds previously included in the project.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation sponsors the program, which continues to pay dividends for Wiregrass child care centers in the form of supplies, training and hands-on support.

In this, the third and final sponsored year of the Kellogg partnership, the centers selected include Mother Goose Child Care Center in Dothan, Immanuel Child Development Center in Ozark and Beulah Land Christian Academy, a Dothan facility that includes separate classrooms for 3-year-old and 4-year-old students.

“This is our first year serving 3-year-olds through the project,” said project co-director Pamela Wimbish. “Kellogg gave us permission to serve those 3-year-olds this year, and we felt it was a wonderful opportunity to pilot our curriculum program for the future Coleman Center for Early Learning and Family Enrichment.”

Immanuel Child Development Center is the first facility outside Houston County to be helped by the program.

In addition to hiring part-time certified teachers to work at the child care centers, TROY also provides support including books, supplies and technology to help the children learn.

The four child care centers selected last year — Little Rebels Daycare, Ashford Christian Development Center, Southeast Alabama Medical Center Child Development Center and Honeysuckle Childcare & Preschool — all saw improvements in their children as a result of Project Pre-K to K.

“We’ve seen continued growth in the children,” said Dr. Cynthia Hicks, project co-director. “We did pre-and-post-project assessments, and all of the results showed the children made tremendous gains in being prepared for kindergarten. We’ve helped a lot of these centers move from a daycare to early childhood education. That’s an important distinction.”

Another part of the program’s goal is to help the center directors write grants to receive funding from Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program.

“The First Class grant is a $150,000 grant that can provide teachers, curriculum, playground equipment, whatever they need to get that First Class classroom set up,” Hicks said. “In the second year, there’s a $45,000 excellence grant they can apply for to keep it going. We help them with that process.”

The project’s co-directors, Hicks, Wimbish and Dr. Tonya Conner, hope to inspire other universities around the nation to adopt similar programs.

“If we had not received this opportunity with Kellogg for early childhood education, none of this would’ve happened,” Wimbish said. “It’s been a ripple effect impacting our community and our state, and one of our ultimate goals to spread this model to other universities to replicate it in their communities.”

The program began in 2016 as a way to address Alabama’s low national rankings in early childhood education.