The Princeton Communities for Kids Preschool Support Program “is a volunteer organization of parents of preschool children and other interested persons,” states their organization’s mandate. Under the direction of Interior Health, Princeton is just one community in the South Okanagan an Similkameen who benefits from this partnership between volunteers and Interior Health. “The initial organization of the Princeton group took place in the spring of 2003 at two large community meetings and led to the determination of an executive committee referred to as the community table,” said member Susan Hamilton. Their mission statement is “to create and develop opportunities for children and families to grow mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially within the community of Princeton and district, focsing on childhood development for 0-6 years of age.”
“The Preschool Support Program was developed in Princeton in response to a 2004 Communities for Kids needs assessment,” continued Hamilton, “and in response to the Early Development Instrument, an early years learning instrument, administered to Princeton Kindergarten students.” Dr. Hertzmann of UBC concluded that “many Princeton children enter kindergarten lacking the skills known to support school success.”
“Studies indicate that preschool programs create significant benefits and long term savings for schools and society,” stated Hamilton. “Preschool programs address the child characteristics considered necessary for successful school readiness, including knowledge, skills and dispositions.” Children with special needs can be identified early and referred to the appropriate professionals through preschool programs.
One of the objectives of the Communities for Kids program has been to financially assist “more children to attend Little Folks Nursery School.” Little Folks Nursery School is an established preschool. The Communities for Kids Preschool Support Program finances two sessions a week at Little Folks for a school year at an expense of $1300 per child. The funding does not come from Interior Health, but rather local businesses, service clubs, unions, and individuals, as well as, the Town of Princeton and the Regional District. The organization also actively pursues grant monies from outside sources.
Participants to the program are determined by the Princeton Public Health staff. “As confidentiality is important to us and to the families, only the treasurer of Little Folks Nursery School and the Preschool Support Program know the names of these children. Our financial reports refer only to Student #1 a, Student #2, etc.,” continued Hamilton.
“Communities for Kids has identified a significant issue in our community; that is, Princeton children are not equally prepared for formal instruction in Kindergarten,” Hamilton stated. “To translate this issue into meaningful action, we developed the Preschool Support Program to provide early learning opportunities for more four year olds. Since it began in 2004, the program has paid toe full or part tuition of 42 children. Without the Preschool Support Program these children would not ha e received the benefits of attending preschool.”
“Rotary donates the equivalent of the tuition for one child each year,” said Hamilton, “so $1300 for one child to attend two weekly sessions in the year proceeding Kindergarten. “Rotary has always been very generous in their support of the preschool program,” stated Hamilton of their recent donation. “We are very appreciative of their concern for the children in our community. They are helping us make a difference and that is so important for these children in their preparation for school.”