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Investing in the Future of Those in Need

For years, America and Americans have spent millions of dollars and countless hours fighting poverty, including trying to help disadvantaged kids stay in, let alone do better in, school. The intent is usually laudable; the results, too often lamentable. Now, for the first time, the country is talking about pre-school programs as a better way.

 

By Allen Clark

 

For years, America and Americans have spent millions of dollars and countless hours fighting poverty, including trying to help disadvantaged kids stay in, let alone do better in, school. The intent is usually laudable; the results, too often lamentable. Now, for the first time, the country is talking about pre-school programs as a better way.

 

This new interest is not just good will; it is the realization that attacking some of the root causes of our social and educational problems makes more social and economic sense than trying to correct what are the harmful results of those problems.

 

The paper has run a couple of articles on the new, privately funded program called 5 Steps to Five, now in its third year in Port Chester. The driving force behind the initiative has been Kent Warner, a 90-year-old Rye resident, and his wife Mary Alice. Major funding to get the program off the ground came from Eugene and Emily Grant of Mamaroneck, whose family foundation challenged Warner to raise the necessary funds for Year One and again Year Two with dollar-for-dollar matching donations. Eugene Grant just turned 97.

 

There’s something very appealing about some 90-year-olds helping shape the futures of rooms full of babies. Their concern and involvement is an example for the rest of us in Rye.

 

In case you missed the past articles, 5 Steps to Five is an Early Child Development (ECD) program designed to help low-income parents gain the knowledge and hands-on coaching necessary for their babies’ brains, bodies, and emotional make-up to develop fully. The goal: entering kindergarten on a playing field for educational success that is as close as possible to the one kids from better-off situations enjoy (Rye, for example).

 

The program starts at birth or even a few months before, with women in their third trimester of pregnancy. Trained teachers and family workers (Head Start employees during the week) meet with the parents and infants every Saturday morning, in groups where socialization occurs. 
In under two years, weekly attendance has grown from just eight moms in one room with two teachers to over 30 attending each week, in four rooms, with as many as 12 staff members by the end of 2015.  Periodic interviews document the impact the program is having. One mother’s example, “If I knew what I now know, I would have brought up my older child a lot differently.” Another, “It has changed me, and it has changed my child.” Over 100 families have been touched by this program.

 

Those of us involved think of 5 Steps to Five not as “charity” but as an investment. Because that’s exactly what it is. Money spent now, when it can have such a positive impact on future lives and life-long productivity, is a small amount compared to the economic benefits it can produce… and compared to the expense trying to deal with the problems that result from not having these babies develop fully.

 

We are very fortunate to be able to live in Rye. Just a few miles north of us, the contrast in social and economic environment and educational need should make us pause and give cause to want to help. A new support group has been formed, “Rye Friends of Five Steps to Five.” It offers something its members can see and feel and appreciate – not just with financial support but with personal involvement.

 

Rye has notable support groups for all kinds of good causes, like the Rye Y, the Rye Nature Center, and The Rye Arts Center. Friends of better educational opportunity for our less fortunate neighbors belongs on that list.

 

Information about Rye Friends of 5 Steps to Five can be found by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


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