Our Better Together Program has started back up this fall at Green Bay Elementary School in North Chicago. We are thrilled to continue our Better Together blog series to give our supporters a first-hand look into this program and the children and families it serves. For our first post, we asked our Success By 6 Initiative Coordinator, Rosa Herrera, to give some history on this program and why it was developed in North Chicago.
What is Better Together?
United Way of Lake County’s Better Together Program was developed to increase services for North Chicago families with children birth to 3-years of age. Our Better Together Initiative started in the Fall of 2016, in a joint collaboration of Green Bay Early Childhood Center, our Women’s Leadership Council and our Success By 6 Program.
Success By 6’s goal in North Chicago is to improve key school readiness skills and improve parent engagement in learning for children ages birth to age five. With the implementation of Better Together in North Chicago we engage the child’s “special adult” to proactively explore and implement tools and techniques to become their child’s first teacher. In collaboration of the child’s “special adult” we help children develop age-appropriate social, emotional, and intellectual skills needed to begin school ready to learn.
Share a bit about the population Better Together serves.
Illinois Report Card (NC-SD 187) 2015-2016 demonstrates over 80% of its student population as low income students. While North Chicago faces many challenges, Better Together seeks to provide equitable opportunities to increase school readiness and lifelong success. We strive to create an inclusive environment where families feel comfortable and safe to support their child’s early development.
At Better Together you will find families who live in North Chicago and on the Great Lakes Naval Base. A camaraderie is formed as families understand they share a common goal of wanting their child to accomplish their dreams. We recognize that every child is unique with an array of strengths and abilities and meet the child and their families where they are at. At Better Together we understand the uniqueness of each individual; respect the diversity in families and children; and recognize that children are best supported and understood in the context of culture, family, community and society.
What has the outcome been for children and families that have participated in the program?
The families of Better Together are guided to create better outcomes for their child’s growth and development. Both adults and children develop a sense of belonging, self-worth, and ownership as they contribute to the group’s efforts, as well as learning how to effectively express themselves amongst others. By sharing their experiences they are connected and encouraged by other families who face similar circumstances.
Our commitment in Better Together is to create an environment where parents and children are exposed to learning tools they can use in everyday life. In every session we engage children on a variety of levels, whether it’s through interest-driven activities or encouraging them to learn a new skill; the opportunities are endless. Exposing them to such experiences promotes social, emotional and intellectual skills of children.
What positive changes has the community seen through this program?
Through the application of a variety of materials such as, books, toys, and pictures, that are culturally responsive to our classroom environment families see themselves portrayed in the larger context of their community. By creating a solid foundation in which families understand that they play a critical role in stimulating their child’s growth and development, we carve a path to future success. Ultimately, with this solid foundation, Better Together children will have a greater chance of achieving their education and lifelong goals. Preparing them to become our future workforce, citizenry and leaders of our communities.
In October, we will share a mother’s perspective on the program. To view our past Better Together blog posts, click here.