Give children a healthy start on education | Editorial

We are born wired to learn.

By age 3, our brains have one trillion synapses — more than we’ll have in adulthood. By age 6, our brains are 95 percent the size of mom’s and dad’s.

We’ll spend 13 years in school preparing for college or the workplace. But it’s our first five years of life — those years before we ever set foot in a classroom — that have the most impact on our ability to learn, control our behavior and build relationships.

By age 5, we either have the building blocks for success, or we have a tough row to hoe.

“The first five years have so much to do with how the next 80 turn out,” said William H. Gates Sr., co-chairman of Thrive by Five and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, at the San Juan County Early Learning Leadership Luncheon in June.

The message: Investments in early learning pay 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.

But the cost of living on San Juan Island puts early childhood education, aka preschool, out of reach for an increasing number of working families. Head Start provides early childhood education for children from families whose income is less than 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. However, because Head Start is limited in the number of children it can take — 18 — many children are left behind.

This is where the Family Umbrella Group comes in.

In its 11 years, the Family Umbrella Group has awarded more than 200 preschool scholarships to children whose families wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford tuition.

The annual Spring Luncheon and Auction is the only fund-raiser for the Family Umbrella Group. Therefore, community support is paramount in making certain that funds are available for scholarship applicants.

This year’s event, themed “Spring at the Seashore,” is April 3, 11 a.m. at Mullis Community Senior Center. It’s a good way to make a difference in a child’s life and have a lot of fun in the process.

You’ll enjoy a performance by violinist Hanneke Klein-Robbenhaar, lunch catered by Vinny’s, and a concert by Alphabet Soup preschoolers. Eugene Cuomo, the island’s master emcee, will lead the live auction.

Tickets are available for $30; write P.O. Box 392, Friday Harbor 98250; or call Scott Dow, 378-5255.

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