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United Way Starts Neighborhood Initiative At Park Ave. In Danbury

United Way of Western Connecticut's Strong Start Neighborhood Initiative at Park Avenue School hopes to connect families so that they can get involved before their child goes to school. Photo Credit: Contributed
United Way of Western Connecticut's Strong Start Neighborhood Initiative at Park Avenue School hopes to connect families so that they can get involved before their child goes to school. Photo Credit: Contributed
United Way of Western Connecticut's Strong Start Neighborhood Initiative at Park Avenue School hopes to connect families so that they can get involved before their child goes to school. Photo Credit: Contributed
United Way of Western Connecticut's Strong Start Neighborhood Initiative at Park Avenue School hopes to connect families so that they can get involved before their child goes to school. Photo Credit: Contributed

DANBURY, Conn. -- United Way of Western Connecticut is piloting the Strong Start Neighborhood Initiative at Park Avenue School in Danbury this year.

The program's purpose is to connect families with children younger than 5 in the Park Avenue neighborhood with services and supports, and to get their families involved in the life of the school well before their children enter kindergarten.

“We want to make the Park Avenue neighborhood a place where families feel supported and where young children are encouraged to learn. We want to involve not just educators and family support providers, but neighborhood businesses, churches and civic organizations. The idea is to make the Park Avenue neighborhood a great place for families and children to live and thrive," said Kim Morgan, CEO of United Way.

Phase one of this multipronged approach began in November and provides funding for Play to Learn playgroups at the school.

Phase one of the Neighborhood Initiative is also funding a Transition Night as well as ongoing workshops for parents of children who are entering kindergarten in the fall.

Phase two will begin in the fall with the launch of Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors at Park Avenue School.

The 10-week curriculum focuses on parents as their children’s first and most important teachers; child development; choosing quality child care; supporting education in the home; health; and advocacy skills. The program will be adapted to address the cultures of Latino parents whose children attend Park Avenue, many of whom come from Ecuador, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic.

Businesses that are frequented by Park Avenue families can offer discounts and rewards to parents who register for and attend programs. United Way plans to develop the reward and incentive program in partnership with neighborhood businesses in the coming months.

Data on children whose families are involved in Neighborhood Initiative programs will be collected and, upon entering kindergarten, their reading scores will be assessed to look at their progress as compared to low-income children in the school district who weren’t connected with programs.

For more information about the Park Avenue Neighborhood Initiative and to get involved, contact Caroline LaFleur at United Way of Western Connecticut at 203-792-5330, ext. 245. or caroline.lafleur@uwwesternct.org.

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