Vincennes University and Pace Community Action Agency, Inc. are strengthening their partnership to ensure student parents and young children both have access to life-changing education.
Pace offers no-cost preschool to eligible VU students with children six weeks to 5 years old through Early Head Start and Head Start programs that provide both care and education.
More than one in five college students – or 22 percent of all undergraduates – are parents, according to an analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education National Postsecondary Student Aid Study by the Institute for Women’s Research Policy.
Earning a college degree is important for numerous reasons. College degree attainment is linked to greater economic opportunity and advancement.
In early 2020, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce predicted 70 percent of jobs by 2027 will require education beyond high school. According to a report this month from Georgetown’s leading experts, among Americans with earnings in the top 60 percent, 57 percent have an associate’s degree or higher, compared to only 28 percent of earners in the bottom 40 percent.
VU students Megan and Mackenzie McCarter are incredibly thankful for the PACE Head Start program. Megan McCarter credits the program with helping set their entire family up for success.
Having access to high-quality and reliable childcare through Pace allows the McCarters, who live in Vincennes, to focus on their studies. Megan is a General Studies major, while Mackenzie is studying Nursing.
“We really like the program and we really like the teachers,” Megan said. “My son loves going there and looks forward to it, and that makes it easier when they look forward to going to school. It’s nice to know that they are in a safe environment and are being taken care of. I don’t have to sit and stress and worry while I’m trying to do my homework and be in class. It makes it easier to pay attention. I want to better my life and be able to give my kids the things they want and need. I want to get a better education so I can get a better job, and eventually buy a house.”
Megan, who earned an Indiana HSE (High School Equivalency) before enrolling at VU for Spring Semester 2021, takes great pride in earning a 4.0-grade point average during her first semester as a VU student. She is equally excited about becoming a certified clinical medical assistant this month. Mackenzie is thrilled to have been accepted to the Good Samaritan Student Nurse Extern Program, which builds supportive relationships between nursing students and professional nursing staff through supervised clinical experiences.
The partnership between VU and Pace undoubtedly supports both higher education and early childhood education.
According to PACE Head Start/Early Head Start Director Angie Lange, “Pace’s partnership with Vincennes University builds on our shared commitment of providing impactful educational opportunities and supporting our communities. Education has the potential to change generations of lives. Throughout my career in early childhood education, I have been able to see the impacts a positive early education makes. I still have kids and parents come up to me and tell me how they enjoyed my classroom. As a Vincennes University alumna, I also know the value and importance of a college education. Pace is proud to support college students. Helping them reach their goals and achieve their dreams is our privilege.”
Head Start provides children ages three to five with education, health, parent involvement activities, and social services for the entire family along with special services to preschool children with recognized disabilities. Early Head Start provides care and education for infants to 3-year-olds and promotes their development while encouraging healthy family functioning. Through a home-based option, trained home visitors educate the caregiver and child to ensure the child is developing appropriately and meeting milestones.
Research shows that children in early childhood education programs like Head Start and Early Head Start are less likely to repeat a grade and are less likely to be identified as having special needs in addition they are more prepared academically for later grades, more likely to graduate from high school, and are higher earners in the workforce, according to the National Education Association.
“This program is going to help them be able to go along in school better and know more whenever they get to kindergarten, and hopefully get a better education,” Megan McCarter said. “I don’t want them to struggle in life and them getting a head start will help them be successful.”
According to VU Education Department Chair and Associate Professor Ann Herman, “The benefits of early childhood education are immense and far-reaching. Organizations like Pace Head Start and Early Head Start play a crucial role in setting up children for a successful future. Children are sponges and their brain development is intense at this level. Offering education at the preschool level allows for early academic learning in areas like numbers and letters, and also important skills such as socialization, cooperation, patience, and concentration. Children also build positive self-esteem and learn to respect others. We are so fortunate to have Head Start and Early Head Start in our community to help prepare Knox County children for bright futures.”
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For more information about Pace or to sign up for programs, go to https://www.pacecaa.org.