Education for Our Community’s Future

Every journey has a beginning. The leaders that sculpt our community started out just like everyone else: students, learners being groomed as tomorrow’s leaders. Somewhere along the way someone inspired them to take the next step in their journey, which eventually lead them to the forefront of our community. Some inspired by parents, coaches or teachers, others by well placed volunteers.

Many members of Columbia’s nonprofit community actively shape the young members of our city into bright, confident and productive adults. These organizations connect and educate by focusing on the little things like books, dance, classrooms and kittens, to allow them to excel in larger ways like goals, graduation, problem solving, teamwork and marketable career skills.

JumpstartChrissie Dickson of Jumpstart works daily, matching trained mentors with children living in poverty to ensure all Columbia children are prepared for school success. Through providing language and literacy tutoring, Jumpstart members work to close the achievement gap. “Among today’s preschool children sit our future presidents, scientists, entrepreneurs and teachers. But not all children begin the race of life on equal footing. Why should a zip code dictate a child’s success?” questions Dickson.

Preschool children living in poverty often come to school nearly 60% behind their peers. Jumpstart tutors hundreds of children each year, helping to “jumpstart” a lifetime of learning for each child.

Daniel Boone Regional LibraryIn addition, Jumpstart members read to children Saturday mornings at the Daniel Boone Regional Library; together the two organizations work toward a common goal of instilling a love for reading in our community’s children. “At the library, we want to build the foundation for lifelong learning, and that begins at birth,” shared Sarah Howard, the DBRL children and youth services manager. “Developing a fascination

“At the library, we want to build the foundation for lifelong learning, and that begins at birth,” shared Sarah Howard, the DBRL children and youth services manager. “Developing a fascination and a love for learning early helps children succeed in school and throughout their lifetimes.”

The Daniel Boone Regional Library provides library services to three library districts in Missouri: Boone County, Callaway County and the Columbia District. The Columbia Public Library serves as headquarters, with other libraries in the system include the Callaway County Public Library and the Southern Boone County Public Library.

Each library has an unstructured play area where kids can practice social and motor skills, and an iPad station with an age-appropriate app kids can interact with. Encouraging family bonding, the DBRL offers a number of activities parents and children can engage in at home. With a variety of literacy-building kits available for checkout, parents and/or caregivers and children can read books, play with toys, watch DVDs or listen to music along with activity suggestions.

“Our early childhood programs are designed to get kids ready to start school ready to learn,” explained Sarah. “Kids also need to be emotionally and physically ready, and we work on these readiness skills, too.”

But the library’s reach expands beyond our city by sharing resources with our neighboring towns not served by a library building. The Bookmobile, Jr. spreads the library love to 25 licensed child care centers. Library-To-Go lockers allow Hallsville and Holts Summit patrons to pick up library materials. During Summer months, students grades 1-12, in eight neighboring communities, are mailed materials through the Books by Snail program.

Second ChanceEven rescued pets are developing a love for reading in our community. This year Second Chance implemented a program for children to read to their cats. The Cat Book Club is mutually beneficial for participants and kitties alike. Valerie Chaffin, executive director of Second Chance, explained that “the program helped our cats become more socialized and comfortable around children and helped children strengthen their reading skills.”

Second Chance teams up with Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts providing volunteer opportunities to develop leadership skills. Girl Scout troops practice project management and communication skills while managing successful donation and fund drives benefitting the organization. Boy Scouts spend time building additions to the Second Chance facility, teaching them how to problem solve  and exercise teamwork while earning their Eagle Scout badges.

EnCircle TechnologiesEnCircle Technologies promotes problem solving and project management, as well, in a setting tailored to the learning style of their students. EnCircle fits bright but underutilized high school graduates with autism with an appropriate learning environment to develop career skills building on their individual strengths. “At EnCircle, we know that there’s an inner track for these individuals in a learning space created for them. Therefore, we’ve done that,” said Teri Walden, executive director.

Encircle works with local businesses to understand what skills are marketable in the workplace and to give their students’ on-the-job experience. They currently have six classes ranging from programming to web development. Teri added, “These classes teach more than just a coding language; they build students problem solving skills, confidence and ultimately teach them a trade, providing them a path for greater success in the work place.”

Also providing important life experiences and instilling confidence is the Momentum Youth Performance. “Developing artistic talents and giving them competitive performance opportunities builds strong, confident youths,” explained Steve Bell, executive director of Momentum Youth Performance.

“Students involved are prepared to take learned skill sets, such as the benefit of work ethics, teamwork, and leadership service along with the realization that achieving goals beyond their own expectation is possible out into the community,” added Steve. Here, artistic young athletes build confidence by setting goals and working as a team to compete in color guard competitions with the Esprit de Corps Ensemble. While competition is definitely in the nature of the group, personal growth is the heart of Momentum’s mission.

Volunteers and nonprofit organizations impact the journeys of so many in our community, many through a common goal of strengthening the minds and skills of the young individuals destined will be our future leaders. Support these organizations, support the journey of others. Give today at CoMoGives.com.

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