The McKnight Foundation announced a grant award of $3 million during three years to expand the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative.
With the new funds, the Initiative Foundation and the five other Minnesota Initiative Foundations will establish 12 more coalitions to involve local residents in improving early childhood care and education in their communities.
Two central Minnesota communities will be selected in July to begin the program in the fall of 2008. The two selected will be graduates of the Healthy Communities Partnership program serving low-income children and families.
The Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative was launched in 2003 in response to a Minnesota Department of Education report that only half of the state's children entered kindergarten fully prepared for success. Since then, 66 grassroots coalitions have created ways to improve early childhood awareness and services in their communities.
More than 400 projects and programs have already been implemented as an outgrowth of coalition work throughout the state. Projects have worked to educate expectant parents, increase access to dental care, improve the quality of local child care and get thousands of new books in the hands of children and their parents.
In central Minnesota, early childhood coalitions have taken root in Brainerd, Breezy Point, Crosslake, Hackensack, Little Falls, Onamia, Onigum, Pequot Lakes and Walker.
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