Journal of the San Juan Islands


Early education: investment that pays dividends

April 10, 2013 · Updated 11:00 AM

Family Umbrella Group / Contributed photo

By Nancy Lindenberg

Special to the Journal

That morning a few weeks ago, as I reached into my mailbox, recalling the sinking feeling of watching our congressmen fail once again, I wondered what the effects would be upon our island.

There it was, on the front page of the Journal: “Head Start faces cuts—again”.

We know that the first five or six years of life are the most crucial. We are born wired to learn, and by age three our brains have one trillion synapses – more than we’ll have in adulthood. By age six, our brains are 95 percent the size of that of our parents.

The value of good preschool education has been proven, over and over. In a qualified preschool, children learn social skills, develop self-esteem, gain a balanced introduction to the world, get a health screening, and enter school prepared to succeed.

In 1998, a group of visionary and dedicated women decided to do something about the lack of support for young children on our island. They knew an investment in early learning pays huge dividends for children, families and society.

By increasing the likelihood that children will be literate, employed and college-bound, we decrease school dropout rates, dependency on public assistance, and trouble with the law. A meeting was held at the health department, a survey was taken, a network was formed, and the Umbrella Group, a non-profit corporation, was born. We work to provide preschool scholarships – a different program from Head Start, but with the same goals. We are a 501C-3 non-profit corporation.

This remains the only safety net on San Juan Island for families who do not qualify for state assistance, yet are unable, even with both parents working, to pay for preschool education on their own. Since 1999, we have provided needs-based scholarships for over a 100 children, and 98 percent of our funds go right back into the community.

It is sad that the most vulnerable of our citizens should be denied the help they need and deserve because our government is deadlocked. It is also very clear that the help must come from our own community. If you feel as I do, here’s how you can help:

The Family Umbrella Group will hold its 15th annual Luncheon and Auction at the Mullis Community Senior Center, Friday, April 26.

A silent and a live auction, a delicious lunch, a lively afternoon and the knowledge that you have taken part in giving real help to real families, right here in your neighborhood — these are yours for a ticket price of $35; available at Sandpebble; or by mail, P. O. Box 392, F.H.

Won’t you help us celebrate our 15th year?


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