IPA Blog

Improving Early Education in Indiana

Friday, April 8, 2016
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IPA’s role is to champion, support, and connect our members, so they can transform Indiana through effective philanthropy. Keeping our members informed about strategies, practices, and initiatives that align with their grantmaking interests is one way we do that.

Last year, we held a day-long workshop that sought to inform philanthropic stakeholders on ways to invest in early childhood education amidst a changing educational landscape. Our goal was to leave members motivated to improve the quality of early learning opportunities for Indiana’s children and families. We followed this workshop with information about grant opportunities that aligned with these needs.

We recently received the following note from Dawn Brown, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Grant County. It’s a wonderful example of how one member used a kernel of information from IPA to catalyze interest in supporting quality early learning for Grant County preschoolers. Read below to learn how Dawn’s community was awarded a $550,000 Early Education Matching Grant (EEMG) from the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s (FSSA), which will enable 230 more kids to receive quality early education.

Thanks, Dawn, and all of our members who are working to educate their community on ways to improve the quality of education in Indiana. Learn more about EEMG and the latest round of community recipients here. Members may also access a variety of resources on early childhood development through our website here.


Dawn's Story On Improving Early Education in Grant County

By Dawn Brown, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Grant County, Indiana, Inc. 

I don’t know if you are aware, but Grant County was recently awarded a HUGE EEMG grant for $550,000 with thanks, in part, to IPA!

I had learned via an email from [IPA] that the EEMG grant was available. However, that email included information that the grant request had to have a $1 for $1 match locally, we did not have that. So, I saved the email in my IPA folder hopeful that an opportunity would present itself. We really needed this!

You see, Grant County has 1 in every 3 of our children living in poverty.
We ranked 1st in that category in 2015, and we are 3rd this year.

As a former teacher, I know well how early childhood education can have both immediate and long-term impact on these children and our local workforce; so I knew that a boost in our quality preschool seats could really help our community.

Just weeks after receiving the email I had [Indiana Youth Initiative (IYI)] come to Grant County to speak about our child poverty numbers. Additionally, I brought in John Peirce [ELAC Family Engagement Workgroup and co-chair of The Big Goal Collaborative of Northeast Indiana] to speak about the impact on a child’s brain when s/he lives in poverty to give the IYI numbers some context. That crowd of 100 was deeply moved by our predicament and that’s when we formally began our leadership of Grant County’s collective impact movement toward a shared vision. While that endeavor will take longer, we did have an even quicker win…EEMG.

Two days after that meeting with IYI, two of my loyal donors came to the office unannounced.

[The donors] wanted to do something to help preschool students at their alma-mater—Marion Community Schools. But, they didn’t know what to do…they just knew they should start with the Community Foundation. I was able to tell them about the $1 for $1 EEMG grant and introduce them to the Little Giants preschool program at Marion Community Schools. It was a match made in heaven!

Many phone calls were made, meetings were had, and donations were made—I won’t go into all of it, but suffice it to say it was both amazing and exhausting! Our first donor breakfast was held on December 15th and the EEMG application was due January 15th.

In those four shorts weeks over Christmas, we raised $623,970!!!
(Our goal was $600,000, and that even seemed impossible!)

Of course, this was all pass-through money (so couldn’t be matched for GIFT VI), but it was well worth it because it allowed us to ask EEMG for our full need to add 230 4-year-old children in poverty to our Little Giants program over the next two years.

We just learned last week that we were awarded $550,000 from EEMG for all 230 kids, and the 43 donors that made it all happen were delighted!

The work is just beginning, but we will be changing 230 lives by getting them enrolled in the Little Giants Preschool Program.

As we like to say, “One small step for man, one giant leap for Little Giants!” These students will have the opportunity to decrease the current 30M word gap between Kindergarteners in poverty and those who are not! PLUS, their parents will now have the opportunity to go back to school or go to work, since unaffordable, safe, quality childcare will no longer be a barrier to their education or employment. This is a boon for both educational attainment and economic development in Grant County.

Perhaps with all of your board work and connections you already knew of this BIG VICTORY for the children of Grant County. But, as Paul Harvey put it, ‘now you know the rest of the story’—the story about 43 donors banding together to raise $623,970 in four short weeks to help 230 4-year-olds…it’s remarkable!

I know I’ve never raised that much money in four weeks’ time! And although it took time and dollars away from our GIFT VI efforts (we were really competing against ourselves in a way), this was truly the best use of our time as it was for the greater good of our community.

Thanks for all that IPA does for Indiana and, today, for Grant County specifically.


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