SMIF is happy to welcome New Prague as our newest Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) coalition. SMIF, along with the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations, launched our first ECI coalitions in 2003 with the goal to ensure that every young child in Greater Minnesota has the best possible start toward a healthy life of learning, achieving and succeeding. With over 90 ECIs across Greater Minnesota, New Prague is the 22nd in SMIF’s region.
The New Prague ECI coalition came together in January 2016 and is a cross-sector group comprised of child care providers, early childhood family education representatives, preschool through 2nd grade teachers, health care professionals, librarians, parents, grandparents, social workers, community education, and business professionals. The coalition is focusing on outreach, coordination of services, health and well-being, and overall child care support. Because New Prague is just starting this program, the focuses are broad so that they can reach as many young children and families as possible.
Since January, the New Prague ECI has already made good progress. The literacy outreach to low-income residents is one of the first projects. The goal of this program is to bring books and educational materials to children and families who may not otherwise have access to these resources. Additionally, they’re starting to create a book-mobile that would travel the community and stop at participating businesses. This will allow families to come together to read, as well as get local businesses involved with the ECI, which aims to make early childhood a cross-sector priority.
The second project New Prague’s ECI coalition is discussing is Winter Indoor Playtime, an indoor play space for kids and families that would be open every Saturday from 9:00-12:00 during the months of January-March. Winter Indoor Playtime, which will be located at the Holy Trinity Church, emerged from the need to keep children active in the cold winter months and the desire for more opportunities to bring other families together in a safe, fun environment.
A third area of focus is around increasing support in caring for children. ECI members will host meetings of local parents and care providers and give participants training to help them take care of the young children in their care. They will also be able to connect with other people caring for young children, thus building a local community.
The last initial project that New Prague is implementing is the resource guide, “The Connection.” This guide will be full of resources and lists of educational places, health services, daycare resources, places to go for fun, and religious organizations to help the local families stay informed. Through all of these projects, New Prague has gotten off to a great start helping the children and care providers in their area. The literacy outreach, winter play space, parent and provider trainings, and resource guide will add to the many existing assets in the New Prague community.