Nine Network, community leaders join in discussion around early childhood

Last Updated by Jim Braibish on

More than 180 community stakeholders attended the Nov. 17 forum, “Early Childhood: The Foundation of Our Region’s Future,” which explored how many children in the St. Louis region start their first years without adequate early learning opportunities, and what we can do about it. St. Louis Regional Early Childhood Council, the Nine Network, American Graduate, and Vision for Children at Risk co-sponsored the forum.

Excerpts of “The Raising of America” kicked off the forum, which is a program that describes how far behind other nations the United States has fallen in investing in children.

“The U.S. is now competing in an economy based on knowledge and skills. Our workforce is not prepared,” Michael Scully, PNC Financial Services regional president said, noting large gaps in math and vocabulary. “By investing in early childhood education now, we can prevent problems in the future. These include costs for remedial education, correctional facilities and many other needs.”

Following the screening and remarks, a panel, moderated by Nine Network’s Jim Kirchherr, engaged the audience in a number of topics facing our region, including:

  • Becky James-Hatter, CEO of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri and co-chair, Ferguson Commission Child Well-Being & Educational Equity Workgroup, related the experience of serving on the Ferguson Commission and how frequently the Commission heard from community members about the need for investment in the health, education and well-being of our youngest children;
  • Anne Klein, vice president of education strategies, St. Louis Regional Chamber, emphasized the imperative for educational investment, noting that by 2025, 60% of jobs in the St. Louis region will require a post-secondary degree;
  • Maya Moody, D.O., F.A.A.P., pediatrician at the Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Center, emphasized the importance of looking at early learning in the context of health, environmental, parenting and mental health issues that also affect future success;
  • Jason Purnell, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, Brown School, Washington University and Lead Author, For the Sake of All, inspired the audience to take action to face the “existential crisis” that our entire community faces as a result of decades of inattention to the impact of poverty and segregation on children.

The Raising of America documentary emphasizes the crucial connections between investment in the very early years to vocabulary and literacy – which links in turn to grade level reading by third grade – which is in turn one of the best predictors of high school graduation. The documentary and additional segments can be viewed online through November 30 on the Raising of America website.

Investing now in our young children builds a strong foundation for their successful future as American Graduates.

This blog was provided by Jim Braibish, Financial Development & Communications, Vision for Children at Risk.

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