One of our core beliefs at the Brown County Community Foundation (BCCF) is that we need to encourage and support our community to continually strive to advance the quality of life of all citizens.

This is a very broad concept with constantly changing challenges that have potential ramifications that will affect how folks live, work and play in Brown County today and in the future.

READ A STORY ABOUT ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL HERE.

The BCCF has limited grant dollars and our board of trustees is diligent in their efforts to strategically focus on areas where grant dollars will provide the greatest impact.

In 2015, your community foundation made a major commitment to the quality of life of our youngest students by providing a grant to Brown County Schools to fund 21 preschool scholarships.

This decision was based on two pieces of information. First, there is very compelling evidence that high-quality pre-K programs help prepare children for success in kindergarten and beyond. Second, after Brown County Schools’ recent consolidation, we do have high-quality pre-K education available in each of our community’s elementary schools.

We also know that 50 percent of our preschool-aged children live in households that are not able to pay the required tuition. We did not want another group of 4-year-old children to miss out on this important educational opportunity. We were all in for supporting pre-K education to the best of our ability.

This 2015 scholarship program proved to be very well received, was measurably successful and the BCCF provided funding for a second year.

In the 2016-17 school year, Brown County Schools had 42 applicants qualify for the available scholarships. The school system selected the oldest 21 students as priority and the other 21 students are on a waiting list.

We want to address this waiting list and are looking for community partners to help us get all of these students into the classroom.

If you or a civic group you belong to are interested in helping with this effort, we encourage you to contact the BCCF to learn more about this critical community need and the specifics of sponsoring one of the students on the waiting list.

Did you know that more than seven out of 10 Hoosier voters believe that pre-K programs are an important educational milestone for children? Right now the cost of preschool education falls primarily on family pocketbooks. Across the state, only 17 percent of preschool children are enrolled in a high-quality program.

We will soon have a new governor and both gubernatorial candidates recently stated that they support state-funded pre-K in some fashion. In 2017, the Statehouse will be developing a two-year budget to fund Hoosier priorities.

Could Indiana be at a historic turning point for our youngest children? Help us make the answer to this question be YES by letting your voice and support be known.

Another core belief of the BCCF is that we know our organizational success will be anchored in the permanent impact we leave for the community. We cannot imagine a more important impact than supporting and growing better educated and more engaged children and future community leaders to live, work and play in this beautiful county.

We believe that investing in our youngest learners provides a message to the community and to the students themselves that we believe in their future.

We hope you will consider joining us in this important effort to nurture the best possible learning experience for as many of Brown County’s pre-K students as possible.

Thank you.

Larry Pejeau is CEO of the Brown County Community Foundation. He can be reached at 812-988-4882 or larry@bccfin.org.