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United Way resource centers encourage parents to take early role in children’s education

Parents at some preschools have more of a reason to stick around after dropping off their kids.

The United Way of Southern Nevada has sponsored seven centers within preschools to engage parents to interact more with their children and each other.

The Success By 6 Family Engagement Resource Centers are at the Hill & Dale Child Development Center, 3720 E. Tropicana Ave.; Kid s Cove Preschool, 4975 E. St. Louis Ave.; Kinder Cottage Preschool, 4090 E. Owens Ave.; The Shenker Academy, 9001 Hillpointe Road; Griffith United Methodist Preschool, 1701 E. Oakey Blvd.; Watch Me Grow, 4095 W. Craig Road; and the Variety Early Learning Center, 990 D St.

The Success By 6 Family Engagement Resource Center and Lending Library at the Variety Early Learning Center is a former storage room that was cleaned, painted and decorated over the past five months by parent volunteers and Variety director Ruby Collins, who has been at the preschool for 40 years.

The center received a donation of more than 1,000 children’s books and teaching materials by United Way volunteer Nancy Reel.

The center also received donated furniture, computers and other educational tools.

"I thought it was fantastic," said Arthur Henderson, the parent of a 4 -year-old of the same name. "I plan to brush up on my computer skills and help my son with his reading. I’m going to make sure to use it."

Henderson said he plans to come in three or four times a week and spend time reading some of the new books with his son.

The United Way partners with organizations such as Spread the Word Nevada, the Clark County Parenting Project and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts to offer workshops, guest speakers, health services and more to families.

The United Way also opened family engagement resource centers at five high schools : Clark, Eldorado, Silverado, Sunrise Mountain and Western.

The goal is to increase the graduation rate by getting families more involved in the student s’ education. Combined with the Success By 6 centers that engage families early in education, it creates what officials call a "bookend approach."

"This reflects the same model," said United Way community development director Dolores Hauck. "It is run by parents ; it’s to engage parents in the whole academic, emotional and social journey of a child. So that when they go into K-12, they know how to be an engaged family. This is where it starts."

Hauck said educational research supports the importance of engaging children in meaningful learning and literacy activities by age 4 for their academic success.

Because it’s by them, for them, Gina Polovina, chairwoman of the United Way C ommitment to E ducation C ouncil, said parents probably will be more invested in the center’s success.

"It’s a place where they can feel like it’s theirs," Polovina said. "When you have buy-in and involvement, you become a more engaged parent as that child enters kindergarten."

Polovina said United Way will track students’ progress through high school to be able to compile comprehensive data about the effectiveness of these centers.

She said they still have some years to wait for the first results, but they are confident this is a good investment of the community’s money.

United Way donated about $219,000 last year toward the development of the high school centers and plans to invest another $400,000 in them over the next five years. It budgeted $10,000 to invest in the seven preschool centers, where most of the materials are donated.

An estimate for how much it cost the organization to open the preschool centers was not available as of press time.

Athena Gould has two daughters, 3-year-old Sarah and 1-year-old Mia, who attend Variety.

"Sarah goes in there every day to get a book and we read it every night," Gould said. "It’s helped her to enjoy books more, there’s more of a variety and her love of reading has been helped.

"It has helped more to engage with other parents in the center. We’re planning things that will help the center, and parents are collaborating more. We weren’t doing any of that before."

For more information about United Way’s Success By 6 program, visit uwsn.org or call 892-2337.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 224-5524.

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