I had the great opportunity to participate with the PNC Advisory Board’s annual Fall meeting last week in Louisville. I so look forward to this meeting each year. The Council members are a diverse group, with representatives from Temple University, Erikson Institute, National Center for Families Learning, Sesame Workshop, Open Minds, and Fred Rodgers Productions to name only a few. So it will be no surprise that the opportunities for dialogue are many, which is always one of the highlights of the meeting.
This trip, our visit included a tour of the Early Childhood Programs at the Dawson Orman Education Center. While there, members of the Stage One Family Theatre read two stories to 100 preschool children, many of whose parents were also in attendance. It was remarkable to watch how completely engaged with the stories the children were. The actors made an effort to be sure the children actively participated throughout the story telling.
I was not familiar with Stage One prior to this, but afterwards learned that their mission is to expose children at a young age to the arts and inspire creative thinking through live theatre. Their motto is “Learning should never be boring”… and it certainly was not! I only wish that we had a Stage One in Erie for our children.
Following the performance, Sharon Darling, the Founder and Ex. Director of the National Center for Families Learning in Louisville addressed its mission of eradicating poverty through educational solutions. Based in 150 communities across the US, NCFL has a holistic approach centering on the whole community which is the family. A key to the success of NCFL is their core belief that professional development with teachers helps them understand and then implement research-based practices that result in transferring this knowledge to parents. I was thoroughly impressed with the number of parents attending as well as their level of engagement. In the session I observed, not a single parent was on his/her cell phones; rather, all were actively engaged with their child.
Our next stop was a truly amazing visit to the Family Scholar House, a program that serves young mothers and their children. Family Scholar House is committed to ending the cycle of poverty. Its mission is to transform the community by engaging families and encouraging youth to succeed in education to achieve lifelong self-sufficiency. The group has grown at a remarkable rate: from serving four families in 2005 to 3,500 families in 2018. Their CEO, Cathe Dykstra, raises 1.6 million annually to allow for Scholar House to maintain their operation – without federal or state funding and without an endowment. That is such an incredible feat in today’s society!
All in all, I was thoroughly impressed with Louisville, particularly with its commitment to Early Childhood Education and to strengthening the family unit. PNC Foundation and Grow up Great have played major roles in helping to shape Louisville into a community in which people say, “Louisville is the place to live if you have a family!”