For students entering school for the first time, one of the biggest challenges is learning how to act in a classroom. In an effort to prepare these potentially at-risk students, United Way of Allen County offers a four-week summer program.
This year, 120 students will complete the Kindergarten Countdown program, which aims to prepare the 5-year-olds for the upcoming school year. That’s double the size of its starting class of 59 students in 2013.
Seven classrooms in East Allen County and Fort Wayne Community school districts are participating. The program is offered to children with little to no pre-Kindergarten experience, students who are English Language Learners, and children who are identified by school staff as at-risk students.
Ruthie Hall of United Way of Allen County says the program gives students confidence to feel ready to start school.
“One of the things that we really focus on with this program is the social, emotional development of these kids and getting them ready to be in a classroom,” Hall said. “Because oftentimes these kids, if they didn’t have pre-K, they’re walking into what could be a very scary and intimidating environment.”
Hall says it costs $57,000 each year to run the program, and it is primarily funded by United Way, with financial support from PNC Bank.
Throughout the five-year history of the program, they’ve added health screenings for the kids and a field trip to Eagle Marsh. They also provide backpacks with school supplies.