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Sun, Sept. 19

New KinderCamp program offered at Williams Elementary-Middle School
Pre-Kindergarten curriculum offered for next three years at no cost to Williams Unified School District thanks to grant funding from First Things First Kindergarten Transition Grant

Reina Rocha enjoys a day at KinderCamp, a new pre-K program offered at Williams Elementary-Middle School this year. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Reina Rocha enjoys a day at KinderCamp, a new pre-K program offered at Williams Elementary-Middle School this year. Ryan Williams/WGCN

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Pre-Kindergarten kids in Williams will get a jumpstart on their education beginning this June thanks to grant funding from First Things First in collaboration with the Coconino County Superintendent of Schools Office (CCSSO).

For the next three years, the Williams Unified School District (WUSD) will offer a month long KinderCamp to prepare children for Kindergarten.

WUSD Superintendent Rachel Savage said the district will receive $23,000 per year to run the program with no funds required from the district to provide the camp.

"Statistics and research show that too many children are not coming to school on the first day ready to learn, whether they have challenges in the home or they don't have a pre-K experience," Savage said. "I think this is a fantastic experience for our kids and I'm glad to see the county and other state agencies as well as the United Way investing in early childhood. I think this will be a fantastic opportunity for our kids."

Currently, there is not a pre-school program offered for the general population in Williams outside of Head Start, which is offered based on income level, and a special education preschool.

"So, this is a really big deal," Savage said. "Even though it is only four weeks long, it will have a significant positive impact on these children. I believe it will help them be more successful not only in Kindergarten but as the years progress."

KinderCamp will run Monday through Friday through June 29 at Williams Elementary-Middle School (WEMS) in the Kindergarten classroom. A total of 25 children are enrolled.

The CCSSO was awarded the First Things First Kindergarten Transition Grant in June 2011. First Things First is a statewide organization that partners with parents and organizations to give children the tools they need for success in grade school and beyond. The organization was created by Proposition 203, which placed an 80 cents tax on cigarettes. First Things First's goal is to ensure more of Arizona's children will arrive at school healthy and ready to succeed.

Seeing early childhood as a means to combat the achievement gap and promote college and career readiness, the County Superintendents Office, currently under the direction of Robert Kelty, applied and was awarded the $190,229.68 grant to provide a kindergarten transition program across the county for qualified youth. The County Schools Office contracted with the United Way of Northern Arizona to scale the KinderCamp model throughout Flagstaff, Fredonia, Page, and Williams. The United Way of Northern Arizona has a long history of working with schools and community members to promote education, income, and health, and KinderCamp has repeatedly been recognized as an effective program that promotes school readiness.

The KinderCamp program is a targeted intervention for school-readiness designed to help children and families with limited resources prepare for the transition into the educational system. KinderCamp accomplishes this goal by"

• Building social and emotional skills that support learning such as following directions, taking turns, relating with others, and learning in a classroom with other children;

• Increase pre-literacy and math skills

•Creating an environment that fosters independent-thinking by allowing each child to experience learning by manipulating, investigating, asking questions, and taking risks;

• Making families more comfortable with a formal school setting by familiarizing them with resources, teachers, staff, and routines;

• Providing a collaborative environment for preschool and Kindergarten teachers to work together to share knowledge, expertise, and best practices for teaching students and preparing for the transition into Kindergarten.

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