On April 14, Congressman Brad Schneider hosted a public symposium to discuss the future of our economy, environment, and education with thought leaders and experts from across Illinois’s Tenth District.
United Way of Lake County’s Vice President of Community Impact, Michelle Crombie, along with Round Lake Area B.E.S.T. Coalition and Steans Family Foundation participated in the E3 Summit’s education panel discussion on expanding access to Pre-K.
Congressman Schneider moderated the discussion on the challenges, uncertainties and need for access to quality early childhood programs in Illinois.
In Lake County, there are 46,400 children under the age of five. Currently, there are enough early care and education slots for a little over half of these children and those opportunities are even smaller for children living in Waukegan, Zion and North Chicago – high poverty communities in Lake County.
Quality early childhood programs produce lasting effects for a child – increasing their likelihood of graduating on time, obtaining a better paying job and boosting the regional economy as a contributing member of society. The great gains from investing in early childhood development led United Way of Lake County’s shift in focus to education.
Since 2006, United Way of Lake County has developed over a dozen key initiatives that promote early childhood development to ensure children enter school ready to succeed. United Way focuses its programs in North Chicago, Round Lake, Waukegan and Zion – where the need is greatest for young children and their families. In these communities, there are 7,200 children under the age of 5 and 70% of these children and their families live in poverty.
Access to quality early childcare programs is crucial for Lake County children and families. Michelle Crombie expressed the need for a better system,
“We need to place a higher value on educating and supporting our children. Research shows that children who have had a positive, high-quality early education experience enter kindergarten ready to read, eager to grow their scientific and analytical talents, and to continue to be healthy and integral members of a community. We are instilling in children, right from the beginning, academic and social skills necessary to achieve success. Therefore, not only are we preparing the next generation of workers, we are creating the next generation of leaders. Investing in early childhood education is the right thing to do.”
Since 2006, United Way’s Success By 6 Program has developed initiatives and funded agency programs to expand early childhood education services and resources to children and families in Lake County’s most vulnerable communities. To learn more about United Way’s early education work in Lake County, visit www.LIVEUNITEDlakecounty.org/sb6.