Baby Steps program lands $1 million grant

OKOLONA – The Baby Steps program in Okolona has received a huge helping hand.
Founder William Raspberry announced Friday the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the facility a $1 million grant.
Baby Steps was initiated in 2002 by Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and a native of Okolona, as a way to encourage and support families in preparing children to enter public education, specifically kindergarten.
In the past eight years, the foundation has partnered with city government, local day cares and Okolona schools in an effort to reach into homes to cultivate a learning environment within the community.
The grant will help Baby Steps and the school district produce a model curriculum for early childhood education in pre-education facilities through the elementary school classes.
“We are trying to align our early childhood education centers to mirror with the schools,” said Baby Steps Deputy Director Ivy Lovelady. “This year, we will work with our teachers on the curriculum of kindergarten.”
Lovelady said the district has teacher training seminars planned and will involve consultants to maximize learning and curriculum potential.
Raspberry, who wrote for the Washington Post before retiring in 2005, celebrated the grant announcement with community members.
“Most of you understand what this grant amount can do. If you’re from Okolona, a million dollars is a lot of money. It’s a lot of money if you’re not from Okolona,” he said with a laugh. “There are a lot of things we can do with it. It’s about making the future a little better.”
A key element in the mission of Baby Steps is to incorporate the community into creating a total learning environment in Okolona.

Lisa Voyles/Chickasaw Journal