Twelve years ago, a baseline assessment showed that only 6 percent of the children in Waukegan Public Schools had the skills needed to be successful in kindergarten.
Today, based on the same assessment, the percentage of Waukegan children arriving at kindergarten ready to succeed in school has increased from 6 to 57 percent.
Impressive and measurable results—thanks in large part to the United Way of Lake County’s Success by 6 program. The nonprofit has conducted a Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, during the first four to six weeks of school, every three years in Waukegan since 2006.
Success By 6 develops and invests in early learning programs that empower families and ensure children are ready for the future.
“We are proud of the measureable impact we are making in Waukegan to improve kindergarten readiness, in partnership with key community stakeholders,” says Success By 6 Program Manager Rosa Herrera for UWLC.
“From Waukegan School District 60 to the Waukegan Public Library to area day care centers, our collective efforts are increasing social support, empowering parents, strengthening services, and assisting in developing future programming to improve the quality of life in the community. Together we are investing in early learning and lit- eracy programs to make sure children are starting school ready to succeed.”
Success by 6’s comprehensive programming includes Early Learning Clubs providing free workshops, tips and materials to empower parents to be their child’s first teacher; Home Visiting delivering early learning and health literacy intervention services to the homes of high-risk children; Kindergarten Countdown Camp offering special camps for children who have never been to preschool to boost their skills over the summer; Kindergarten Readiness Calendars inspiring parents as they teach their preschool-age children; Early Learning Trails developing academic readiness while encouraging active movement and play; and Better Together engaging North Chicago families with children birth to three years old to build early literacy and learning skills.
UWLC’s Board of Directors is comprised of dedicated community members and professionals from diverse industries across Lake County (including the North Shore) who give of their time and talent to support the agency’s important work.
“The first year of the Success by 6 program, I participated in the testing of children entering kindergarten and the experience was shocking,” says Nancy Coolley of Lake Forest, a current UWLC general board and executive board member, and a member of the United Way of Illinois Board, who has been involved with United Way LakeCounty since 2002 when she retired from Hewitt Associates.
“There were only a few of these young children who had experience with books, who knew the alphabet and their colors. Knowing that more children are now coming in to kindergarten knowing basic skills, so they have a fair chance to learn, is rewarding.”
Coolley adds that, when the program was researched, studied, planned, and launched, it was key that United Way could track progress and have measurable results with testing.
“It has always shown that we were investing in a worthy program one that is changing the lives of young children and their families,” she says.
Irene Hrusovsky, also of Lake Forest, first became involved with UWLC when she was an employee of Abbott Laboratories, contributing to their Annual Giving Campaign. Now retired, she serves on the board as well as Women United, a women’s leadership group affiliated with UWLC.
“I strongly believe in UWLC’s focus on early childhood education and also recognize their substantial community support for families,” Hrusovsky says. “I recently had the privilege of first-hand experience with the 2018 assessments as a volunteer at one of the schools in Waukegan.
“The children are inspiring. I loved their enthusiasm for learning and reading books and was impressed with their competence that shows promise for their school success. It is very rewarding to contribute to an organization focused on early childhood education and making a difference.”
For more than 80 years, UWLC has been preparing children to thrive in school is the best way to disrupt the cycle of poverty—engaging in activities that ensure children are ready for their first day of school, building children’s early literacy skills, helping youth overcome barriers to high school graduation, and empowering families to develop a strong foundation for their child’s future success. UWLC’s delivers programs that are timely, effective, and scalable—with measurable results.