Partners for Education at Berea College


Posted on by Charlie Foster

Parents and kindergarteners came out to a picnic at Paces Creek Elementary School September 25 to learn about the importance of school attendance during elementary school.  Kelly Brown, Berea College Promise Neighborhood Academic Specialist for Paces Creek, told the parents, “It’s important to start with kindergarten, since kindergarteners have the most absences in the school.” She offered tips for good attendance, including keeping children on a regular routine—especially bedtime, packing book bags and picking out clothes the night before, and talking to teachers or administrators if students are anxious about going to school.

The message rang true for parents.  “It’s as important as anything,” said Joetta Wagers, whose daughter Miley is a kindergartener at Paces Creek.  “If you’re not there, you can’t learn.”


Jennifer and Mia Collins make apple necklaces before dinner.

After Brown spoke, students gathered around Donna Gillahan, Children’s Librarian for Clay County Public Library, for a reading of “Ten Red Apples” by Virginia Miller.  When the children finished listening to the book, they made necklaces out of beads shaped like apples.


After dinner, Brad and Donnie Stevens played songs for the students.  Donnie, an Arts and Humanities teacher at Clay County High School, has played music for other picnics at Clay County elementary schools, partnering with Promise Neighborhood Academic Specialists to incorporate art wherever possible.  “I like the idea of being able to share an important part of my life with the kids,” Stevens said.  He encouraged other artists to partner with Promise Neighborhood and get involved.  “It’s an opportunity for others to share their talents with the community and kids.  They go unnoticed and unappreciated, but this is an opportunity for them,” he said.


Promise Neighborhood also partnered with Save the Children to put on the picnic.  Jennifer Gates, Coordinator of the Early Steps to School Success Program at Paces Creek and the parent of a kindergartener, said the partnership helps her enroll parents and children in the program. Gillahan said that from her perspective at the library, she has seen the benefits of Early Steps to School Success first hand.  “Putting parents and teachers in the same room helps transition students,” she said.  “Both parents and students aren’t as nervous about starting school.”  As for the partnerships with Save the Children and Promise Neighborhood, she said they have helped.  “Some relationships we would never have developed if not for the programs.”

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