Preschool education is one indicator of a child’s success later in life and an area Champaign County lags. New Healthy Beginnings early childhood coordinator Dana Walker, MS, CCLS, aims to help change that.
Walker’s background melds healthcare and education, and its addition to the community-focused mix comes with the backing it needs to succeed. The PNC Foundation and United Way of Champaign County stepped in to help fund this important addition to Healthy Beginnings, which works to build healthier families, communities and futures for more than 300 families in Champaign, Urbana and Savoy.
“We’re working in innovative, vastly different ways to generate better health, education and economic outcomes for underserved populations,” said Julianna Sellett, vice president, Community Health Initiatives. “Our work focuses on breaking down silos and integrating resources.”
The preschool education challenge is clear.
“Hundreds of children cannot get into organized preschools,” said Beverley Baker, director of community impact at the local United Way. “Supporting this position to bring education directly to families who need it uniquely fills a known gap and addresses a disparity in our community.”
Walker’s portion of the free-to-families program includes screenings to assess children’s needs and customized plans to help get or keep them on track.
Healthy Beginnings Manager Kristen Farney, RN, said in-home support keeps children on an upward health and education trajectory, and adding an educator to the team just makes sense.
“Developing a curriculum with area educational partners helps align our team for consistency and provides a seamless transition into preschool and kindergartens in Urbana and Champaign schools,” Farney said, also listing the University of Illinois, Parkland College and Champaign County Head Start.
“We hope that in bringing an early childhood educator into the homes, our team will reach not only the children actively enrolled in our program, but also interact with all the children in the home.”
For more information about Healthy Beginnings, please call (217) 365-7925 or visit cuhealthybeginnings.com.