The breakfast was followed by presentations by all the various departments such as services to special needs children, child care facilities, policy and environmental rating, training collaboration bilingual services, health care, Pre-K programs in conjunction with the Duplin County Schools, parental education and the early childhood program at James Sprunt Community College, as well as others not listed.
Erica Brody also shared with the crowd an update on the National Children’s Study that is being conducted in Duplin County. She stated that they have identified 50 infants that will be traced from pre-birth through 20 years of age. The study has a goal of 1,250 infants to be included in the study.
“This is a very important program not only for Duplin County, but for the whole county in relation to how specific localities affect the life of a child,” Brody said. “We hope to learn so much from the data gathered as the program continues over the years.” Queens, New York and Duplin County are the only two studies that have begun nationally.
The keynote speaker for the day was the former president for Smart Start, Karen Ponder. Ponder is now the CEO of her own company named Ponder Early Childhood, Inc. Ponder has served in all aspects from teach to administrator in education and educational services to children. The Summa Cum Laude graduate of North Carolina State University and received further education from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a recipient of North Carolina’s highest civilian honor The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. She commented that the presence of each person at the breakfast at such an early hour in the morning was a perfect example of the dedication and service each one has for the betterment of the lives of children throughout the state.
Ponder praised the efforts of the elected official, educational leaders, providers, parents and other serving the children in the dire financial times and the way they have faced significant cuts in funding to continue to provide services for the young people of Duplin County. She shared that she had been traveling across the country sharing the comprehensive educational program of children started in North Carolina known as Smart Start. “I would like you to know that although we were the first state to start such a comprehensive educational program for young children, nearly almost every state is moving to catch up with us. So know as you continue your work here in the county, it has far reaching affects across the nation.”
Why is there a movement to create early childhood systems when money is so tight and there are so many competing priorities? was the theme of Ponder’s presentation. “Building a brain is a critical function during the first years of life. The time from birth to kindergarten is the most important to have our children receive their optimum learning capabilities.” She related scientific studies to where it has to be done at this critical time in the child’s development.
Ponder’s second reason why the creation of the early childhood programs is that will benefit the schools themselves as these programs will greatly reduce the high cost of intervention programs. “Superintendents and educators will tell you that all the learning occurs at an early age. You can tell if a child is going to be successful by the age of four. If we invest in providing quality early childhood education is costs far less than the many intervention programs used to help bring students up to where they should be.” She added that it would be wonderful if all children enter school with all the tools they need to be successful in school.
The future citizens of Duplin County and the future citizens of our state will be better community leaders if they start out with high quality education was stated as a third reason for beginning early learning systems for children. “Forty years of studies have shown that children that received a quality early education were less likely to commit crime or be lay breakers and more likely to be employed and less likely to need public assistance and social supports and more likely to own their own homes and delay parenting until adulthood,” added the speaker. “She stated that a former policeman once told her, ‘Ponder if you were doing your job, I could just go home.’” in an effort to reinenforce her statement. “He saw the link between a solid foundation and being a good citizen.”
Finally her last reason for moving to establish early childhood education was “It make economic sense.” Ponder stated that many scientist have stated that early childhood education is the most economical tool that can be used to keep costs down due to reduced costs incurred through education through intervention programs, reduced costs due to crime and inmate rehabilitation and producing a more effective citizenry to generate a quality of life for everyone.
In summary, Ponder said, “Early education programs produce good brains, creates better schools, builds stronger communities and save money in the long run, so why aren’t we all out promoting it and making it one of our highest priorities? This is our duty to our children and grandchildren.”
Ponder concluded, “As my grandfather always said, ‘The most important part of a building is a good foundation. If you do not have a good foundation, everything put on top of it will be compromised.’ It applies to buildings and to the lives of our children.”
At the conclusion of the program, attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions and visit the many displays throughout the Ed Emory Auditorium in the Lois Britt Agricultural Building.
To contact Billy Todd, call 910-592-8137 ext. 117 or e-mail email@example.com.