MHA of Lake County Partners for School Readiness

MHA of Lake County Partners for School Readiness

Mental Health America of Lake County (MHALC) is partnering with the School City of East Chicago and its Carrie Gosch Early Learning Center to engage in the Ready to Soar program.

Ready to Soar is an early school readiness program for incoming kindergarten children, parents, and schools. This program provides early childhood readiness workshops, screenings and consultations.

The inspiration behind this project began in 2014 when MHALC vice president of operations Kim Smith, in her former role as executive director at Early Learning Partnership of Northwest Indiana. In January 2018, Early Learning Partnership united with Mental Health America of Lake County, and now operates as a division under the MHALC umbrella.

Smith stated that she noticed there were a substantial number of various children program wait lists supporting early learning education.

“I came across a college readiness article one day that spoke about how important it is to start with early childhood education, as 90% of brain development impacting learning happens by the time a child turns 5 years old. I found it quite alarming that there weren’t enough programs available to impact young children,” said Smith.

In 2014 the Legacy Foundation of Lake County awarded Kim Smith and Early Learning Partnership a College Readiness Grant allowing them to move forward with creating and ensuring quality early education services to benefit vulnerable children at no charge to the family at no charge.

Through learning assessments, personal consultations and home visits, academic workshops focused on the children, and parent education and engagement working in conjunction with school systems, children are getting the additional support needed.

In addition to East Chicago, the Ready to Soar is currently available with local school districts in Hammond, Whiting, and Griffith.

“A focus on prevention to ensure lifelong mental health and positive brain development gets me excited. The sooner we can impact learning the better the chance to impact that child for life,” stated Smith.

Over the last five years of the program, more than 1,160 children have been screened for school readiness. Of those, an average 48 percent of screenings indicated a potential concern. Among those children who participated in follow-up services, 94 percent showed some progress, with as high as 75 percent showing recovery to a normal score range in post screening at kindergarten entry.

“Many children and parents just need the right tools and knowledge to help a struggling child succeed in school,” said Smith. “And with Ready to Soar they do.”