The Franklin/Grand Isle council is known for its attentiveness in seeking meaningful ways to engage with and provide for the community. Our diverse council is well-versed in the importance of positive experiences during the early years, and is committed to ensuring all children have a healthy start. The council knows that creating a pathway for success for our youngest children requires whole communities coming together to support positive social, emotional and educational growth. Thus, when each regional council was awarded $5,000 from the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, the council was quick to engage in dialogue around what opportunities might be universally supportive to all children and families. It is widely known that the milestone of reaching kindergarten can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. Though some families are seasoned in this stage of the educational journey, others may be brand new to the experience. With so much to learn and explore, the council agreed that the kindergarten transition bags would be one way to intentionally show our dedication to community wellness and child development. Upon agreement, we were all ready to get started!
The creation of the bags and their contents evolved through discussions at council meetings. Council members took from their own experiences as parents, providers, and community members. “In my experience” one council member stated, “backpacks are great, but for my kids, those drawstring bags are even better for storing an extra snack, pair of sneakers, or gym clothes.” Others chimed in about the importance of early literacy and expressed the importance of including an age appropriate book that children could take home and share with their families.
Fun stickers, erasable colored pencils, and a letter home to the caregivers were also provided to congratulate them as they embark on this new adventure. Lastly, information on resources such as BBF, Parent Child Centers, and Help Me Grow were included to ensure families are aware of options in their community.
In the end, with the help of the BBF council and Parent Child Center home visiting staff, nearly 700 bags were filled and delivered to 19 schools in Franklin and Grand Isle counties. The schools were delighted to have the opportunity to provide the bags, and responded to the council in the following ways:
- “I cannot thank you enough for the kindergarten bags! They are awesome and the kids will love them.”
- “Thank you so much for the kindergarten welcome bags. It was so kind of you to do this for our kindergartners!”
- “Thank you for being so flexible in delivering more bags as new kindergarteners came in, they are great!”
Evidence has shown that our overall wellness has deep roots in early childhood experiences. To develop into happy, healthy adults, we must first nurture and care for happy and healthy children. The BBF council believes in supporting environments where children can build confidence, explore, achieve outcomes and meet developmental milestones- and kindergarten is just the place for that. Though welcome to kindergarten bags are just one step, we will continue to invest in promoting positive experiences for the physical, social, and emotional growth of all children and their families alike.