By Nicole Delaney, AmeriCorps VISTA, Success By 6
On the evening of September 9th, kindergartners and preschoolers from Carman-Buckner Elementary School in Waukegan Community Unit School District 60 in Waukegan, IL went to school, but this time with their parents too. These families came to attend United Way of Lake County and Carman-Buckner’s Back-to-School Early Learning Club, a special event to kick off the school year on the right track for these young learners!
Early Learning Clubs (ELC) are an initiative under United Way of Lake County’s Success By 6 Program. ELCs empower parents to be their child’s first teacher by training them on creative tools to engage their child in understanding key skills necessary to succeed in Kindergarten. Carman-Buckner hosted a special session targeted to parents of its newest students to give them an opportunity to get to know their child’s teacher and gain skills and resources for enhancing their child’s education at home.
Because I am an AmeriCorps VISTA and our United Way is a Campaign for Grade-Level Reading community, we received extra funding to support this event and provide refreshments for the families. If you’re not familiar, AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program where volunteers serve full-time with community organizations fighting poverty for a year, in exchange for a modest living stipend, an education award, and other benefits. I started serving with United Way of Lake County’s Success By 6 Program in June and have helped with their Kindergarten Countdown Camp, Early Learning Clubs, and other initiatives. For me, AmeriCorps VISTA is a great opportunity because it offers a great chance to improve my professional skills while giving back to my community.
As a VISTA, I helped plan and coordinate the Carman-Buckner Back-to-School Early Learning Club. The event was a success and over 30 children and their parents attended. It was led by the school’s Kindergarten and preschool teachers. Many of the families speak Spanish at home, so teachers led the event in both English and Spanish. The teachers emphasized the importance of practicing key skills such as writing, shapes, colors, letters, and counting. It gave parents the chance to try the activities with their children and ideas of what they can do at home. Children left the event excited with their new books and educational games and parents were happy to feel more confident in supporting their child in early learning! We are planning to host more events at Carman-Buckner throughout the school year!