Signature Issue: Early Childhood Education
Seven years ago, United Way of West Georgia asked a group of committed volunteers to come together to create a Women’s Leadership Council, creating more structured and ongoing opportunities to raise awareness around early childhood education. Our Women’s Leadership Council, the Magnolia Society, has brought together a diverse group of women to raise funds in support of early childhood education and to lead the community in taking action. The Signature issue for the Magnolia Society is Early Childhood Education.
While looking for unique ways to increase our impact, the need for action around early childhood education and school readiness became clear. Children in West Georgia are reaching kindergarten with vastly different experiences—some are reading by the time they enter Pre-K and others come without exposure to basic ideas such as colors, shapes and letters.
With so much of a child’s brain development happening before the age of five, it’s critical to reach children and parents as soon as possible and in as many ways as possible. United Way of West Georgia and Magnolia Society play an important role in leading much-needed community change around early childhood education.
If a child enters kindergarten behind, their chances of reading on grade level by third grade are much slimmer. If that child isn’t reading on grade level by third grade, they are four times less likely to graduate from high school.
To combat the lack of awareness around early childhood education, our volunteers are meeting with the community stakeholders, holding awareness events across the county, raising funds, and working with community organizations, local government and child development centers to find solutions that help us reach more children and parents in West Georgia. These collaborations, our Success by 6 program, and our connections to partner agencies allow us to lead this movement.
Magnolia Society volunteers are working to bring early childhood education to the forefront of community leaders’ and parents’ minds. With much more work to do, we are committed to expanding our reach every year, making early childhood education a priority for all throughout West Georgia.
The Signature Fund Raising Event
Since 2017, LaGrange Has Talent has been the signature fundraising event for the Magnolia Society. Unfortunately, it has been cancelled for 2020 due to the CODIV-19 pandemic. We are looking forward to getting that event going again in 2021. Funds raised, LaGrange Has Talent are used to fund activities and some grants that impact Early Learning. One of the exciting new programs that is being funded through the Magnolia Society is our participation in the statewide Child Well Being Index in partnership with other United Ways in Georgia. Funds have also been made available to purchase books for distribution to doctors’ offices, the WIC offices and Babies Can’t Wait. Prescription pads with a prescription to read to your child for 20 minutes every day were included.
LaGrange Has Talent was a big hit in its third year, raising over $18,000 for Early Learning in 2019. There were more contestants who submitted their videos for online voting and actual voting as well. The live talent show was outstanding! The winners were Peasants with Pitchforks from Hillside Montessori with the A-Ha song, “Take on Me.” The People’s Choice Award for raising the most money went to the duo of Davis Hunnicutt and Layton Payne also known as “For the Wild.” Once again the acts were varied and included solos, duets, ensembles, and Young Singers with lots of participants. A special thanks to Stacey Hardigree and Craig DeLoach, winners of the 2019 Dancing for the Thread competition for their closing performance of “Disco Inferno and September.” We appreciate all who entered the contest, those who sponsored and those who supported the event either through their votes and or attendance at the performance. And we especially appreciate all of the wonderful volunteers who worked hard to make this event so successful. A special shout-out to Katie Van Schoor and Melissa Miller for directing and producing this show, and Jack Morman and Katie for serving as our Masters of Ceremony.