Starting Line
February 2017
Private Dollars help Children of Mecklenburg County
Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is pleased to announce it has received a $300,000 grant from the Vanguard Community Stewardship program. This partnership funds the expansion of existing Smart Start evidence based programs designed to support the healthy development of children and to ensure kindergarten readiness. Specifically the grant expands YMCA's Parents as Teachers, Reach Out & Read and Smart Start Healthy Families.
"Vanguard's support tangibly demonstrates their commitment to being a community partner. Their generous gift will enable these three programs to better serve children in ways that enhance their chances of full and successful lives" says Robert McCarter, Interim Executive Director at Smart Start of Mecklenburg County.
The Vanguard Community Stewardship program helps provide a strong start for young children in communities near each of the investment company's U.S. sites. More than 1,500 of Vanguard's 15,000 global crew (employees) are based in Charlotte. This initiative for young children is funded through a combination of Vanguard corporate gifts and Vanguard crew gifts from the company's annual giving campaign.
This partnership fully aligns with Smarts Starts Mission to facilitate the delivery of a high quality, collaborative, accountable system of care, family support, health services and education for every child beginning with birth.  

Click The Logo to Learn More about Vanguard

Reach For The Stars with Farm To Preschool
Aligning Early Childhood Environment Rating 
Scale (ECERS-R) with Farm to Preschool (F2P) 

The North Carolina Farm to Preschool Network (NCFPN) was convened in May 2015 by ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) and NC CACFP (Child and Adult Care Food Program). This group of stakeholders are committed to supporting and promoting farm to preschool programming across the state of North Carolina. NCFPN developed a definition for farm to preschool: Farm to preschool enhances the health and education of young children by developing systems and experiential learning that connects children and their families with local food and farms. Farm to preschool includes any type of childcare that incorporates local foods through: meals and snacks, taste tests, lessons, farmer visits, cooking, growing food, and/or community and parent involvement. 

Reach for the Stars with Farm to Preschool, was created by NCFPN. Its purpose is to help child care centers and family child care homes integrate farm to preschool activities into their curriculum while addressing the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS). This resource will benefit early childhood programs in North Carolina and across the country. 

Reach for the Stars with Farm to Preschool is organized by four farm to preschool activities: 

1. edible gardening with young children, 
2. farm field trips/farmer visits with young children, 
3. local food classroom cooking/taste tests with young children, and 
4. local food served in meals and/or snacks. 

In each of these activity components, the ECERS subscale, items, and indicators were aligned with suggested farm to preschool activities, providing ideas and prompts for early childhood educators. In addition to enriching the educational experience, this resource clearly demonstrates how star ratings can be achieved through farm to preschool programming. The indicator is not spelled out, only referenced by the number, and in the place of the indicator language is the suggested farm to preschool activity.
The Benefits of Positive Parenting
P ositive parenting can overcome the effects of poverty on brain development in adolescents, according to a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Numerous studies on the association of poverty with poor academic and psychosocial outcomes in childhood have pointed to the critical role of stress on brain development. Physical and social stress that often occurs during childhood in lower socioeconomic environments can influence the growth of the brain. In particular, there is evidence that development of the amygdala and hippocampus, brain regions that support learning, memory,  mood and stress reactivity, is suppressed in disadvantaged children.  

Brody et al conducted a neuroim  aging study on 119, 25-year-olds  who had participated as  adolescents in the Strong African American Families randomized trial (SAAF), a program designed to mitigate the negative effect of life stress on rural African American youths by encouraging positive parenting.  The intention of the study was to correlate the size of specific areas of the hippocampus and amygdala in these individuals, as determined by magneti c resonance imaging, with the number of years between the ages of 11 and 18 that they had lived under the federal poverty line. 

The results showed that, in the control population that had not been enrolled into the SAAF program, more time spent living in poverty was associated with smaller than average volume in areas of the amygdala and hippocampus. The good news was that this suppressive effect of poverty on brain maturation was prevented in those youths whose families had the benefit of the SAAF interv ention. The promotion of positive parenting had conferred resilience to the stress of poverty. Importantly, this protective effect was detected at age 25 - it had lasted into adulthood. 

Interestingly, these positive results were achieved in a program serving the families of adolescent children. More than 95% of brain development occurs during the first six years of life, and  the brain is particularly susceptible to the stress associated with poverty during this timeframe

This study encourages us that, through interventions that help parents to bring up their children in a positive, responsive way, it is possible to buffer against the consequences of poverty and low socioeconomic environments.  Leveling the playing field for disadvantaged children in this way can contribute to closing the achievement gap.

This Article was Written by   Nikki Shearman for Reach Out & Read
Smart Start of Mecklenburg County (SSMC) administers approximately $13 million a year in state and private funds to programs serving children birth to age five, their fami lies, and their caregivers in Mecklenburg County. 
The Learning Collaborative is a comprehensive pre-school program with hands-on involvement between teachers, students, families, patrons and the community. Providing transportation, hot meals, speech language and literacy development, and intensive family support, they have a long and successful history of developing children who are ready and excited to learn upon entering kindergarten, while coaching parents to participate in their child's education as both teacher and advocate. 

The Learning Collaborative was recently highlighted on WSOC-TV discussing the positive changes it has brought to the Grier Heights neighborhood.  

The Learning Collaborative -  3241 Sam Drenan Road,  Charlotte,NC 28205
Phone: 704-377-8076 

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