Sixpence grant will be valuable asset to community

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They are some of Nebraska's most vulnerable: infants and toddlers.

Blair Community Schools (BCS) helps those at risk with its birth to 3 program, which includes a team of a school psychologist, speech therapist, physical therapist and an occupational therapist.

Now, that program is getting a boost through an $85,000 grant from the Sixpence Early Learning Fund, which contributes to high-quality early childhood learning programs. The grant will allow the district to hire an additional at-home visitor and match families with skilled professionals trained to model and coach parents in high-quality, developmentally positive interactions with their youngest children.

BCS was one of 11 early childhood partnerships throughout Nebraska to receive a grant totaling approximately $2.5 million.

Sixpence was established in 2006. It's Nebraska's signature effort to prepare more of Nebraska's youngest, most vulnerable children for success in school and life through high-quality early learning opportunities in the first three years, according to its website.

These at risk children aren't necessarily those with special needs. A prime example are teen parents, who need the extra support.

The birth to 3 program and Sixpence focuses on helping parents fulfill their role as the key factor in children's lifelong success. These programs help increase parent knowledge, strengthen parenting skills and help grow resilient families.

Blair is fortunate to have a such a program within its school district. In a given year, the program has helped 30 to 35 families. The Sixpence grant will only help grow it.

Those involved in the birth to 3 program said the grant will also allow the district to build partnerships within the community.

“We're constantly looking for resources in our community,” speech therapist Amy Tessendorf said. “We do have service coordination on the special education side of it, but sometimes we're really looking for what does Blair have, what does Washington County have, what partnerships does Washington County have to share with Blair families. Sometimes our families don't get into Omaha for some of those resources that are coming from our service coordinators. We just want to make it more about our community.”

This is the time for the community to step up when asked to help provide the support these families need. Why wouldn't we want to help those who are most vulnerable?

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