Ripley steps toward Excel By 5 certification

djournal-Education_apple_booksBy Lena Mitchell

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

RIPLEY – Efforts to support families of children from birth to age 5 are underway with a Ripley coalition’s effort to become an Excel By 5 certified community.

The statewide Excel By 5 program designates communities as being early-childhood-friendly when they meet a specific set of objectives in the areas of community involvement, family and parent support, early care and education and health and safety, said LaShay Michael Bryan, Ripley’s certification manager.

“We started in June 2013 and have been working with day care providers and other community stakeholders to develop the program,” Bryan said. “It went over fantastic and people volunteered for the steering committee.”

The steering committee developed and conducted a survey of children from birth to age 5 to learn what needs the community thought were important, Bryan said, which led to parent meetings.

A community-wide town hall meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21, at the Ripley Public Library.

“We have 450 people in Tippah County ages 0-5, and only about 250 are in day care,” said steering committee member Melinda Marsalis. “It’s easy to reach those, but not so easy to reach children in other child care situations. We want to get them reading-ready.”

A particularly striking statistic won Bryan’s buy-in to the program.

“Something that caught my attention and let me know how important this is to make a difference is that the way they judge how many prison cells to build is the number of kids that can’t read by third grade,” Bryan said. “That’s just awful.”

Excel By 5 has developed partnerships with day cares that include Noah’s Ark, First Baptist Day Care, Prather Head Start and South Tippah Pre-K Program. Other programs on the scheduled or being planned include:

• Little Friends of the Library monthly speaker for the parents.

• A health and safety fair to coincide with the community Easter Egg Hunt in April.

• A Back to School Bash in August.

• A Summer Safety Program at the end of May or first of June covering water safety, ATV safety and helmet use.

“We’re partnering with as many organizations as we can in the community to get these programs to families, and Tippah County Hospital is sponsoring the summer safety activity,” Bryan said.

lena.mitchell@journalinc.com

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What: Ripley Town Hall Meeting: To discuss the program to support families of children up to age 5 to improve a child’s overall well-being by age 5.

When: 6:30 p.m., Jan. 21

Where: Ripley Public Library Meeting Room, 308 N. Commerce St., Ripley, (662) 837-7773

For more information: Certification Manager LaShay Michael Bryan, michaell@stippah.k12.ms.us