United Way of Greater Lorain County Partners with Lorain City Schools and Four Other Organizations to Form Rising Titans Kindergarten Readiness Community Collaborative

1.20.17 - United Way of Greater Lorain County and the Lorain City School District have partnered with four other organizations to form a community collaborative focused on improving kindergarten readiness for children in Lorain. The community collaborative is known as Rising Titans and has worked together to identify four pillars of early learning success in Lorain. The pillars include parent engagement, family empowerment, healthy children and resources for providers.

"This partnership is critical to our children's futures. We know that children have approximately 1,892 days from birth until school starts, and every day matters,” said Lorain City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Graham. “It is important that children develop their self-confidence, social and emotional skills, and a love of learning before they begin Kindergarten. Every piece of the equation makes a difference when it comes to student success."

Research reviewed by the collaborative indicates several factors present within the City of Lorain that likely inhibit a child’s ability to learn. Factors include poverty, little access to tutors, chronic health conditions, a shortage of quality preschool options and food insecurity.

The data shows a student poverty rate of 88 percent in the district and over half of Lorain’s children struggle with the transition to kindergarten, particularly in the area of language. In addition, approximately 30 percent of Lorain children never attend a formal pre-k program prior to entering kindergarten, and 21 percent of children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese.

In response, Rising Titans partners will align and coordinate existing activities and programs that fall within the four identified pillars. The collaborative will then expand programing as needed, add targeted activities and programs to fill in gaps, and begin outreach to children not currently receiving early childhood services.

Initial strategies already being implemented by the collaborative are identifying and providing services to children needing interventions, providing tools and resources to homecare providers, coordinating services between childcare centers and the school district, and working with families to provide additional supports as needed.

“It is heartening to see the willingness of these partners to dedicate themselves to working collaboratively to solve this critical issue. By using a single set of goals, measuring the same way and committing to each other’s mutual success, the entire community will benefit and great things will happen for Lorain,” said United Way of Greater Lorain County community impact director Christine Matusik-Plas.

In addition to United Way and Lorain City Schools, collaborative partners include Little Lighthouse Learning Center, Lorain County Community Action Agency, Lorain County Community College and Neighborhood Alliance. The announcement took place at a joint press conference held at Lorain High School with all partners in attendance.

The long-term vision of Rising Titans is a community where families have access to the tools they need for kindergarten readiness, Parent Advisory Committees help shape the process, all children entering kindergarten have comprehensive health screenings and immunizations, homecare providers are integrated with formal early-learning centers through professional development and coordinated services, and new services are added that eliminate any new barriers to early learning success.

Rising Titans is the 11th community collaborative launched in Lorain County as United Way of Greater Lorain County continues its focus on working collaboratively to achieve greater community impact. The work of the Community Collaboratives over the past year recently helped United Way of Greater Lorain County receive recognition as the 2016 Ohio United Way of the Year.