by Ava Barrett, Director, Hendry County Library Cooperative
How do you change unfavorable educational ratings in a county? The Hendry County Library System believes the answer is “from the bottom up.” To this end, this library system started out on what has proven to be an adventurous, groundbreaking, and rewarding venture, including several pre-schools in the county.
One person who was tremendously impacted the program was teacher Deana, from a pre-school in Hendry County. When Deana heard that the children in her pre-k class would be going to the library on a regular basis, she thought her role was to simply go to the library with her class, help each child pick up a few books and then return to the school. Her big concern however, was how in the world would they be able to get the students there? Walking was the only option but it was not an attractive one because the school is far from the library and she knew of no transportation for the weekly round trip.
She also knew all her students needed help with early literacy skills and were from homes where the library was the last thing on anyone’s mind. So how would this work? The answer was provided by the library through a comprehensive network of community funding, partnerships, and volunteers that made Deana a participant in an exciting venture she confessed she will never forget. This is the story of how she, her students, and several other pre-school teachers and students throughout Hendry County were blessed.
Working with the directors of several pre-school programs throughout Hendry County, as well as directors of the Barron (LaBelle) and Harlem libraries, and me, we developed a three pronged approach to providing early learning experiences and learning for the students in the pre-schools, that was able to realize miracle after miracle for the children of these schools. It allowed schools in LaBelle that couldn’t come to the library to have the library come to them utilizing a mobile, computer lab. Schools in Clewiston were bussed to and from that library through a generous arrangement with the Good Wheels bus company at no cost to the library, and students from the school that shares a campus with the Harlem Library simply walked to that library. The results of these activities are amazing.
In the ABC Mouse program, every child that entered that program in the three libraries came out knowing not only the parts of the mouse but how to use that tool to solve problems in the reading classes by clicking, dragging, and dropping objects as instructed, to develop literacy skills provided in the Lexia reading program. The result was 100% knowledge of basic computer skills and 68% of the children in the Lexia program experienced significant gains in the learning of literacy skills. Thus, this project accomplished far more that was expected which is truly phenomenal and ground breaking in this tiny part of Southwest Florida, where the library system seeks to help move the needle on kindergarten readiness. All this was only possible because of the generous grant we received from the SW Florida Community Foundation and because of the help we got from Good Wheels.
This summer and fall, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle. We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.