‘Thrive by 5' Initiative Invests in Early Childhood Education

It's a simple formula: investing in children early pays dividends to society later.

Everyone knows the importance of child day care for the economy. It allows parents to work while their children are in a safe environment.

High-quality pre-kindergarten takes day care to a more important level, preparing toddlers for kindergarten in a variety of ways.

"Exposure and experiences in the arts, culture, music, literacy, language, health, nutrition, wellness, social and emotional development, and we offer therapeutic services for children with special needs," said Shawna Pointville, owner of Excel Kids Academy in Miami Gardens.

Pointville's facility is one of several identified by the Children's Trust as a high-quality pre-K provider for its new initiative, Thrive By 5. The President and CEO of the Children's Trust, Jim Haj, says the goal of Thrive by 5 is to make every child ready to hit the ground running by age five because it makes a huge difference in their educational outcomes.

"Oh, it's critical, you can see from the research that the gap starts widening and as they get older the gap widens considerably and it's hard to come back from that," Haj explained.

Research, Haj says, shows that once kids fall behind, they sometimes never catch up with their peers. To avoid that achievement gap, the Trust, a governmental agency, invested $2.75 million into Thrive By 5, which triggered a $20 million combined investment by the federal and state governments. So that pays for thousands of kids in Miami-Dade County to receive pre-K and after-school learning their parents couldn't otherwise afford. At Excel Kids Academy, 90 percent of the 160 children are receiving scholarships through Thrive By 5.

"Oh, it helps a lot, I can afford the child care, my kids are learning, especially the three-year-old, she comes home, wanna read every day," said Sakevia Shivers, a mother who has two toddlers in the program.

Thrive By 5 is more than a kindergarten readiness initiative. The children are building foundations for their lives.

"The foundation to feel supported and confident and great, valued citizens in the country," said Pointville.

Pointville was once a Miami-Dade County corrections officer. Her experiences dealing with inmates at the county jail convinced her to change careers. She says it makes much more sense to get kids on the right path early instead of arresting them as teenagers. Pointville calls it prevention instead of rehabilitation.

"Imagine the community if everybody enters kindergarten, ready to read with literacy skills and the social-emotional skills ready to enter kindergarten, the community would be much different," Haj said.

It's a simple formula: investing in children early pays dividends to society later.

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