Rotary Youth Club Receives Alabama First Class Pre-K Grant

FAIRHOPE, Ala. - Alabama Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education announced this week the Rotary Youth Club of Fairhope/Point Clear as one of 122 new Pre-K classrooms for the fall of 2017. The $85,000 grant ensures a pilot program launched this spring will continue as an important piece of the Club’s commitment to education and opportunity for learners of all ages in the community. The Rotary Youth Club received the only grant in Baldwin County this year. 

"Offering a Pre-K program has been a dream of this board and its supporters for years,” said Board Chair Ed Hammele. "We opened our first classroom this spring thanks to the generosity of local donors, with hopes we would win this state grant to keep going. We’re thrilled to now be a part of Alabama’s award-winning Pre-K program at last. The licensing and application process confirmed what we knew from our club member parents – that this area offers far too few early learning opportunities for our children. We want to be part of the solution.” 

The new classrooms were made possible due to increased appropriations in the FY 2018 Education Trust Fund Budget along with funding from year three of Alabama’s four-year federal Preschool Development Grant. This latest commitment increases the number of classrooms to 938 – enrolling approximately 16,884 four-year-olds. While now impacting 28% of Alabama’s Pre-K eligible children, the program’s goal is 100% access. 

The Rotary Youth Club program is led by veteran Kindergarten teacher Sarah Seitz. Assisting in the classroom is Tylesha Gulley, a former Club member now working toward her teaching degree at Troy University. The spring pilot program was made possible by a grant from the J.L. Bedsole Foundation and other donors as well as in-kind contributions for a new dedicated Pre-K designed playground. 

The Alabama School Readiness Alliance has consistently published studies reflecting the inarguable link between quality Pre-K and the rest of a child’s academic life. They head to school with better reading, writing and math abilities as well as the social skills that ensure "ready to learn” Kindergarteners arriving at the school door. Studies also find fewer special education placements and behavior problems, higher graduation rates and even stronger economic productivity later in life. 

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