Judy Center a county first

Pupils: The state-funded program that aims to promote long-term educational success makes its debut in Howard at a Columbia elementary school.

August 28, 2002|By Donna W. Payne | Donna W. Payne,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The school buses were rolling again Monday, lunchboxes packed and school supplies in hand as county children headed back for the new school year. At every school, seasoned students and teachers were joined by their rookie counterparts.

At Dasher Green Elementary, a group of 4- and 5-year-olds lined up outside for the first day of kindergarten with a remarkable quietness that suggested their possible uncertainty about what awaited them inside. Their parents snapped photos, gave assurances and waved goodbye as teachers guided the newly minted schoolchildren to their classrooms.

These children and their families will be the beneficiaries of something else that is new at Dasher Green - an innovative program that will offer a comprehensive array of services designed to help the youngsters achieve long-term educational success. A prominent, new sign at the entrance to the school announces: "Touching the Future. The Judy Center at Dasher Green."

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun about the county's Judy Center at Dasher Green Elementary School contained an incorrect phone number and an error in a photo caption. For information on the Judy Center, call 410-313-7601. In the caption, Sidney Young was misidentified. It should have read that Sidney raises his hands in excitement. The Sun regrets the errors.

"The Judy Center allows us to address educational, social, emotional needs of the children directly, as well as working with their families to support them in preparedness for school," said Tracey Jones, early-childhood instructional facilitator for the Howard County school system.

Dasher Green is the first and only school in the county to receive funding from the state for a Judy Center. Thirteen centers were established statewide last year, with 11 more, including Dasher Green's, added this year. The centers are named for the late Judith P. Hoyer, an early-childhood educator and wife of Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer.

Anne Yenchko, Judy Center project director, said the program offers "full-day, full-year" services for young children and their families, and is open to all families in the Dasher Green area. The program targets children ages 3 to 5, but also supports outreach to children from birth through age 7.

"The goal of the Judy Center ... is to help children come to school ready to learn," Yenchko said.

"We're very, very excited for our families and for our community," said Principal Susan Goglia, who with Jones wrote the Judy Center proposal that was funded for $664,000 for the first 18 months and is eligible for renewal as goals are met.

Goglia said that to receive the grant, "folks from all over the county" had to commit to the program.

Specifically, the Judy Center has internal support from the school system and external support from nine community "partners," including Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks, the county library, Howard Community College, Head Start and nearby day care centers.

The school system provides additional teachers and support staff at Dasher Green. Partners donate, among other things, meeting space and enrichment activities. Day care services are funded by the grant.

The result, Goglia said, is a "collaborative, aligned, community focus" to help kids.

The Judy Center concept focuses on three components: direct services to the children, services to their families and professional development for their teachers.

Services for the children include separate preschool programs, coordination with Head Start (which provides office space in its new building behind the school), enrichment activities for all kindergartners, and after-school enrichment care or summer school programs for some of the children.

Yenchko said parents are the "key" to the success of the program. The Judy Center supports a parent resource center and staff members who will meet with families for input and to provide support and services as needed. Family activity nights are planned, and parents have volunteered to help the program and other parents.

The Judy Center provides additional training and accredited coursework for teachers and staff members to learn skills that can help the children, she said, noting, "What we're hoping to foster here [is] the sense of us all working together to help these children be successful."

Information: Joan Ford, program assistant, 410-313-7901.

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