Innovative Community Collaboration Creates Roadmap to Universal Kindergarten Readiness in Pinellas County

Following successful examples from cities like Seattle and Syracuse, and programs like Thrive Washington, The Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas has developed a collective impact initiative that brings together multiple sectors of the community to address one goal: ensuring that all Pinellas County children are ready for kindergarten.

Kate Bauer-Jones, former President and CEO of United Way of the Florida Keys is leading the charge on this new initiative, “Thrive by Five Pinellas” (TBFP).

Collaborators working with the project include City of St. Petersburg, St. Pete Chamber of Commerce, Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Feeding Tampa Bay, Healthy Start Coalition, Juvenile Welfare Board, Lutheran Services, Pinellas County Health Department and United Way Suncoast among others. Last Friday, Bauer-Jones brought together many of these traditional and non-conventional early childhood advocates to identify priorities and begin planning on how to increase the number of children in Pinellas County who are “ready” for kindergarten.

Early Learning Coalition CEO Lindsay Carson recognizes preparing our children for kindergarten is going to take effort from the entire community, not just educators. “The Thrive by Five project pulls together partners from the private sector, local businesses, our Chamber, the City, along with childcare providers and health care providers, thus allowing us to really create a comprehensive kindergarten readiness movement,” she states. “Early learning and kindergarten readiness has a profound impact on our community as a whole. Our goal really is to create equitable access to kindergarten readiness services that support the success of all children.”

A recent state report shows that only 57% of Pinellas County children were “ready” for kindergarten, supporting the need and value for a readiness initiative such as TBFP in our community. Children who enter kindergarten with healthy development and the necessary academic skill sets are more likely to graduate high school and have higher lifelong earnings. With 85% of brain development occurring within the first three years of life, most children who enter kindergarten a year or so behind their peers will not have the chance to ‘catch up.’

Thrive by Five Pinellas is a countywide collective to support equitable and healthy development of all children ages 0-5 years and their families. Healthy development in the first five years of life includes: physical health and well-being; social competency; emotional maturity; language and cognitive development; and communication and general knowledge. In the early years, a child’s healthy development sets a trajectory for long-term health outcomes.

The Early Learning Coalition submitted a proposal to the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg for the TBFP initiative in the Transformative Grants round in 2017. Their approach was a good match for the Foundation’s focus on multi-sector interventions that attempt to change systems that impact fundamental social determinants of health, such as education. TBFP will be awarded a $538,000 grant over a three-year period. This grant will support personnel, operating costs and strategic planning for the collaborative impact work.

Foundation President and CEO Randall H. Russell explains, “TBFP is a bold and ambitious initiative that has the power to produce transformative results for school readiness. It’s the kind of systems-change approach the Foundation is enthusiastic about and proud to support — a diverse, multi-sector collaboration of passionate, like-minded leaders working to achieve more equitable educational outcomes for our children, families. Education is the foundation for a healthy life. The Foundation’s investment in Thrive by Five will help put more children, particularly those currently disadvantaged by the system, on a path toward school readiness and the ability to reach their full potential.”

About Thrive by Five Pinellas

Thrive by Five Pinellas (TBFP) is a collective impact approach to ensure an equitable, accessible, responsive and accountable early childhood system that will increase the percentage of children in our community “ready” for kindergarten. We work with diverse partners throughout the community to achieve a multi-faceted common vision, ensuring that children, families, schools, and the community are aligned in supporting the development of young children.

About Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg is a private foundation formed in 2013 following the sale of the nonprofit Bayfront Health St. Petersburg. It is the steward of almost $180 million in assets to support health equity in Pinellas County. The Foundation inspires and empowers people, ideas, information exchange, organizations and relationships to end differences in health due to social or structural disadvantages and improve population health.

For further information please contact:

Lashonda Curry
727-865-4650
lashonda@healthystpete.foundation
Communications Manager
Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg

Kate Bauer-Jones
727-400-4430
kbauer-jones@elcpinellas.net
Director of Community Impact
Thrive by Five Pinellas

Faithe Estes
813-990-7128
festes@tuckerhall.com
Senior Account Executive
Tucker/Hall