Thursday, July 21 will be a big day for early childhood in Summit County, as Parents as Teachers™ (PAT) President and CEO Scott Hippert will visit Akron to see first-hand how the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) has successfully implemented its parent education program and how community collaboration has helped them successfully support hundreds of families.
AMHA received a national award from PAT for innovation and other housing authorities have contacted AMHA about replicating its model.
“This is such an honor for our program and community,” said AMHA Executive Director Anthony W. O’Leary. “Nearly 3,000 children under the age of five live in AMHA housing, which gives us a unique opportunity to positively impact kindergarten readiness.”
AMHA’s innovative delivery of early childhood programming has earned national recognition as well as several awards and has been cited as a model for other housing authorities across the country.
“A full day has been planned for Mr. Hippert’s visit so he can learn more about the value of early childhood in a community where a housing authority is focused on the educational success of its youngest residents,” said Richelle Wardell, manager of AMHA’s Early Childhood Initiative (ECI).
Hippert will begin his day in Akron attending a Summit County First Things First steering committee meeting. He recognizes the role community collaboration has played in AMHA’s success and said he is anxious to meet early childhood partners and learn more. He’ll also meet with community leaders and AMHA families who participate in PAT.
Also on Thursday, Hippert will join AMHA’s Early Childhood Initiative in hosting its annual “Touch-a-Truck.” The event takes place 1 to 3 p.m. at the Reach Opportunity Center, 390 W Crosier St. In addition to city safety and service vehicles, some new vehicles will be added to this event. Fifth Third Bank will showcase its eBus, which will provide financial empowerment opportunities. FedEx will provide a truck and share information on safety. Cleveland Clinic Akron General Medical Center will bring its mobile health unit, and the city trolley will also be there.
Akron Public Schools will have a school bus on site so kids can learn how to safely board the bus. The Akron Fire Department will feature its Fire Safety House. Akron Children’s Hospital is exploring the possibility of having Air Bear join in the festivities.
Community partners Akron Public Schools, Akron-Summit County Public Library, Akron Summit Community Action, Head Start, Child Care Connection, Child Guidance & Family Solutions, GASP, SPARK and Summit County Fatherhood Initiative will provide information to families on early childhood related programs and services. Associates from the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company & Safe Kids Summit County will team up with staff from Akron Children’s Hospital to distribute bike helmets as part of the Safe Mobility Project.
The event will also focus on Summit Education Initiative’s 16 for Success by having interactive questions and learning opportunities at each vehicle, i.e. colors, size, comparing, rhyming, etc. These topics are also in line with the Parents a Teachers evidence-based curriculum that AMHA’s Early Childhood Initiative is utilizing in homes.
Since 2010, AMHA has supported hundreds of area families through Parents as Teachers. The program provides parenting information and support to local families throughout pregnancy until their child enters kindergarten. After a child begins kindergarten, efforts are made to connect families with community agencies that provide services to assure that children are reading at grade-level by the third grade.
According to Derran Wimer, executive director of Summit Education Initiative, “AMHA’s educational programming plays a critical role in supporting the county’s Cradle to Career Alliance”.
It is fitting that this special event is being held at the Reach Opportunity Center at Summit Lake, which recently celebrated its 2nd anniversary. The Center provides a continuum of educational programs for residents from birth to adult. The Center helps families to move upwards and out of poverty by providing a comprehensive system of education, training, support and resources that are keys to improving personal opportunities and achieving self-sufficiency. Goals for the Center are to improve kindergarten readiness and third grade reading, and to increase employment in the neighborhood. The Center serves both AMHA and non-AMHA residents. For info, visit www.reachsummitlake.org.