The Goizueta Foundation and YMCA strikes again!
This amazing charity, founded 20 years by Cuban-American businessman, Roberto Goizueta, continues to pour millions of dollars each year into education initiatives designed to benefit Hispanic students and their families. He once said: "The cynics will tell you that the good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. I say, do it anyway."
The latest initiative is called “Explore My World”. Funded by a three-year grant from the Goizueta Foundation, it is an early learning readiness program staffed and implemented by the YMCA of Coastal Georgia's Office of Youth Development and Outreach.
This free program is designed for Hispanic children ages 10 months to four-years-old and their adult caregivers. Its goal is to give the children the skills they will need to thrive when they are old enough to begin their public school education and also to teach parents and caregivers how they can best support the young scholars.
“We are so grateful to the Goizueta Foundation for its ongoing support and guidance in helping the Hispanic and Latino families in our community so significantly,” said Audrey Rodriquez, YMCA of Coastal Georgia Youth Development Director. “With this generous grant, we can continue to lift up early childhood education as one of our key program areas to ensure that all of the kids we serve have the skills and tools they need for academic success.”
“Explore My World” is staffed by two bilingual facilitators, Marisol Rodriguez and Erin Chester.
According to Rodriguez, this program is unique because it allows the parent or caregiver to learn alongside the child and is based on a federally-funded pilot program from Hawaii called 'Tutu and me'.
“In Hawaii, grandparents are the primary caregivers for young children in their families,” she said. “That program allows teachers and their assistants to bring books, toys, and other supplies to learning centers to help the grandparents prepare their grandchildren for school.”
Chester said that the YMCA of Coastal Georgia currently has three “Explore My World” learning centers in place and is hoping to establish a fourth location in Richmond Hill very soon. Four days each week, she and Rodriguez load their YMCA van with toys and learning supplies to help Hispanic children get ready for school.
“Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, we meet from 10-12 pm at the First Hispanic Baptist Church in Savannah,” Chester said. “Then, on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, we drive to Hinesville and meet with kids at the YMCA of Liberty County from 2-4 pm. On Wednesdays and Fridays from 10-12 pm, we meet with children and caregivers in Port Wentworth at Our Lady Of Lourdes Catholic Church. Right now, that program is our most active one with 13 kids participating.”
The teachers say their program is structured to resemble a real school environment complete with eleven different activity centers. The Goizueta grant provides all supplies and toys used by the kids and everyone receives a midmorning snack as well.
“When the kids walk in, we sit down in a circle and read a story and sing a welcoming song,” Chester said. “We have a listening center with a library and a manipulative center where they learn colors. Each center has a description of how they learn as they play.”
Rodriguez emphasized the program's learning experience for parents and caregivers.
“Everything we do is completely bilingual so this presents a perfect opportunity for parents and caregivers to work on their English-speaking skills alongside their young children,” she said. “This whole experience is designed to get the kids ready to attend school so all of our activities feature things they will find in a kindergarten or 1st grade classroom.”
Volunteers are welcome to participate in any of the “Explore My World” programs. Because of security requirements, all volunteers must be willing to submit to a personal background check.
For more information, please call Audrey Rodriguez at 912-236-1021