By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Lee County has officially applied to join a statewide program that focuses on boosting young children.
A group of representatives from throughout the county met last Tuesday to complete an application to join Excel By 5, a program that helps communities support children from birth to age 5 and ensure they are eventually prepared to start kindergarten.
The Excel By 5 board next meets in October and will vote then on whether to accept Lee County’s application. If chosen, it would join 35 Mississippi towns, cities or counties currently participating in the initiative, in which participants agree to reach certain guidelines in order to be recognized as early-childhood certified communities.
Nine Mississippi coalitions have been certified, including Monroe County, West Point and Oktibbeha County.
Other Northeast Mississippi participants include Lafayette County, New Albany-Union County and Corinth-Alcorn County. The certification process generally takes two to three years.
Lee County’s efforts began with meetings in March. If Lee County is accepted, the group will meet again in October, said Beverly Williams, who has organized the efforts.
“We’ll start forming coalitions and figure out who will be in what focus group and who will be on the steering committee,” Williams said.
“We are kind of in a holding pattern until we get official word, and then we’ll start.”
The group will also need to choose a certification manager to help direct the process. To become certified, it will need to take such steps as conducting a survey of needs, addressing those needs and hosting town hall meetings, school readiness events, community-wide family events and children’s health fairs.