Grow Up Great Week
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by Eva Blum
When The PNC Financial Services Group started PNC Grow Up Great (www.pncgrowupgreat.com), we thought about the impact of putting the power of such a large company behind the issue of early childhood education. If our employees really got behind this program, we could move mountains.
During this Week of the Young Child, we celebrate Grow Up Great Week and reflect on how our employees have accomplished more than we could have anticipated.
It’s been so exciting to see PNC Grow Up Great make an impact in numerous communities. Our local teams have been creative, enthusiastic and productive. Friendships have been formed with Head Start administrators and teachers. Thousands of children and their families have been touched by our volunteers, grants and the information that we have distributed.
The timing could not be better. More and more, the nation is competing in an economy that is based on knowledge and skills. The foundation for these fundamental skills is found in the early school years. Yet thousands of children in U.S. kindergartens are 18 months behind their classmates in academic skills. And few of them ever catch up. Already, statistics show that approximately 25 percent of 9th graders will fail to graduate high school.
With our 10-year, $100 million investment in school readiness, we want results that include a significant improvement in the future workforce and a turn around of distressed communities. These are results that appeal to the business community, and for that reason we encourage businesses to become involved.
Working with Sesame Workshop, we have given away 500,000 "Happy, Healthy, Ready for School" kits in our marketplace. Our partner, Family Communications (creators of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood), helped us develop training for our volunteers and the 101 tips for parents and caregivers that appear on our website. Our new, interactive Mobile Learning Adventure has brought the Grow Up Great message of the importance of the first five years of life to community events and branch openings. In the process, we are building on PNC’s longtime work in our communities.
But most of all, the stories we hear about the impact of the program are remarkable. New playgrounds for the children, books they never had, toothbrushes and toothpaste for their oral health – all contributed by our employees. The financial literacy classes have helped families repair credit problems, begin budgeting their income, and sometimes, buy their first home or at least plan for one in the future.
Our demonstration projects have supported innovative curriculum so that the teachers have the training and resources they need to teach more effectively. Our volunteers have helped them in the classrooms. And the children’s skill levels have soared. Our advocacy helped the Governor of Pennsylvania get a budget passed last year that included $75 million for preschool education for the first time in the state’s history.
There is still much work to do, but PNC (www.pnc.com) is making a difference. I am even more convinced now, four years into the initiative, that we can move mountains.