This past spring, 196 Norwalk students completed Head Start, the federal program administered by Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to five from low-income families by enhancing their cognitive, social and emotional development.
With the first day of school around the corner, community officials are asking for the public's help to make sure these kindergartners are school ready in another way--they want to make sure they have the supplies they need for success.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) joined the staff members of Norwalk's Head Start at Nathaniel Ely School to ask for donations of backpacks and other critical school supplies for needy children.
"If we want to help our children succeed in school, the best thing we can do is ensure they are well prepared to learn. Part of that means providing them with basic school supplies like backpacks and pencils," said Duff, who was surrounded by kids from Head Start.
"Unfortunately, many of our city's neediest children beginning kindergarten this year cannot afford these essential school supplies. There is a need for somewhere between 100 to 200 hundred backpacks to supply this year's Head Start graduates."
He said that all donations of regular-size backpacks (large enough to fit a library book and a lunchbox), boxes of 24 crayons, boxes of pencils, glue sticks and other school supplies will be received through Aug. 28. Gift cards or checks made out to NEON Child Development Program, NCDP, are also welcome.
Donations may be dropped off at any of the following Norwalk locations:
Nathaniel Ely School, 11 Ingalls Ave.
Ben Franklin Center, 165 Fax Hill Rd
NEON HQ, 98 South Main St.
"Take a look at the children here. We may have our next doctor, lawyer, our next teacher, our next Senator, our next president and CEO," said NEON Acting CEO/President Chiquita Stephenson.
"It's all about how we as a community, we as adults, rally around one another about what's really important. And what's important is that we are helping to take care of one another; we are helping to take care of the children in our community. Anything the community can do...we appreciate it and our children appreciate it as they enter into Norwalk Public Schools."
Aug. 28 will be the first day of staggered entry for Norwalk Public Schools, as half of the incoming kindergarten class; Grades 1 through 5; Grade 6; Grades 9 and 12 at Norwalk High; and Grade 9 at Brien McMahon begin school that day. Aug. 29 will be the first day of school for all other students.
"We want to make sure that the kids don't enter school in a stressful way," Duff said. "That they don't feel that they don't have the supplies that some of the other kids do. It's important that all kids go in on equal footing and that they feel they have the crayons and the pencils and the glue sticks. I know my kids went through many, many, many glue sticks," Duff added with a laugh.
Janice Joyner, director of child development at NEON, said there is more of a need for donations of school supplies this year because of the economy.
"We serve low-income families and a lot of our families are unemployed," Joyner said. "It's about letting the community know there are children in the community that are still in need. A lot of families can't provide. This is a great opportunity for these kids to feel that they have the same thing that their peers have."
"Early childhood education programs like Head Start have shown us that when students are well prepared for Kindergarten, they go on to succeed in the later grades, and that success carries them forward into their later lives and careers," Duff added. "No child should get off to a slow start in Kindergarten for lack of a backpack. If everyone who is able contributes a small amount, we can make sure these needs are met."