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Group Plans Forums to Promote Early Childhood Education

A St. John non-profit group is working to improve early learning opportunities on the island.
With that goal in mind, "Kids First!," in conjunction with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, will hold a series of forums to get input from parents, educators, day care providers, and community leaders. "Planning for Success—a community conversation about early learning on St. John," runs Oct. 15, 19, 20 at various locations.
"It’s to get a sense of the challenges and opportunities in early childhood," said Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation.
She asked people to call the Community Foundation office for times and places so the staff can determine which session fits best.
According to a press release from the Community Foundation, the forums will be conducted by experts in early learning and child development. They will discuss “best practices” that can be applied to St. John and will prioritize actions that can enhance St. John’s capability to provide a quality learning environment for younger children and prepare them for success.
The experts are Elizabeth Jaeger, a professor from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Eleanor Hirsh, who serves as director of the Community Foundation’s early learning initiative, The Family Connection.
The Community Foundation and Kids First hope to develop priorities for enhancing the educational opportunities for the island’s children through grade three, Claflin said.
"All of the research shows this is a critical time in the lives of young children," Kids First President Bruce Claflin said.
Claflin said he knows of children who entered kindergarten without any involvement with books.
Baecher-Brown anticipates the “Planning for Success” initiative will help create a model to continue community conversations on early child care throughout the territory.
Claflin founded Kids First! A part-time St. John resident who spends half the year in New Hampshire and half on the island, he heads the board of directors. Other members are Dana Robes, Koke Cummins and Margaret Black, all people with second homes on St. John.
The organization’s initial efforts were paid for by those four people and included funding a reading intervention teacher at Guy Benjamin School. It also paid for 10 plus children to attend the early childhood program at Gifft Hill School. Additionally, Kids First! funded a one-day teacher development program at Julius E. Sprauve School.
The newest project involves recruiting St. John vacation villa owners to donate two percent of their villa income to Kids First! Claflin said that in return, the villas will be promoted on the Kids First website and through other marketing methods. The fact that the villa owners are involved in this philanthropic effort will encourage prospective guest to pick their villa over one where the owner isn’t involved, he said.
Further information about Kids First can be obtained by visiting www.kidsfirststjohn.org
Those interested can sign up for a "Planning for Success" forum, by calling 774-6031.

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A St. John non-profit group is working to improve early learning opportunities on the island.
With that goal in mind, "Kids First!," in conjunction with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, will hold a series of forums to get input from parents, educators, day care providers, and community leaders. "Planning for Success—a community conversation about early learning on St. John," runs Oct. 15, 19, 20 at various locations.
"It's to get a sense of the challenges and opportunities in early childhood," said Dee Baecher-Brown, president of the Community Foundation.
She asked people to call the Community Foundation office for times and places so the staff can determine which session fits best.
According to a press release from the Community Foundation, the forums will be conducted by experts in early learning and child development. They will discuss “best practices” that can be applied to St. John and will prioritize actions that can enhance St. John’s capability to provide a quality learning environment for younger children and prepare them for success.
The experts are Elizabeth Jaeger, a professor from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and Eleanor Hirsh, who serves as director of the Community Foundation’s early learning initiative, The Family Connection.
The Community Foundation and Kids First hope to develop priorities for enhancing the educational opportunities for the island's children through grade three, Claflin said.
"All of the research shows this is a critical time in the lives of young children," Kids First President Bruce Claflin said.
Claflin said he knows of children who entered kindergarten without any involvement with books.
Baecher-Brown anticipates the “Planning for Success” initiative will help create a model to continue community conversations on early child care throughout the territory.
Claflin founded Kids First! A part-time St. John resident who spends half the year in New Hampshire and half on the island, he heads the board of directors. Other members are Dana Robes, Koke Cummins and Margaret Black, all people with second homes on St. John.
The organization's initial efforts were paid for by those four people and included funding a reading intervention teacher at Guy Benjamin School. It also paid for 10 plus children to attend the early childhood program at Gifft Hill School. Additionally, Kids First! funded a one-day teacher development program at Julius E. Sprauve School.
The newest project involves recruiting St. John vacation villa owners to donate two percent of their villa income to Kids First! Claflin said that in return, the villas will be promoted on the Kids First website and through other marketing methods. The fact that the villa owners are involved in this philanthropic effort will encourage prospective guest to pick their villa over one where the owner isn't involved, he said.
Further information about Kids First can be obtained by visiting www.kidsfirststjohn.org
Those interested can sign up for a "Planning for Success" forum, by calling 774-6031.