Oktibbeha County’s Excel By 5 Coalition completed an integral step in its certification process by hosting a town hall meeting at the annual Back to School Bash Saturday.
“The importance of this step is two-fold,” said Bob Clay, Excel By 5 sites coordinator.
“First, it provides information to the community about resources available for children ages birth to five. Second, it provides information about gaps in those resources, and also allows us to get feedback from the community so an action plan can be put into place to meet the needs of the community.
“This is a major step. It sets the platform for everyone to be set for certification,” Clay said.
Oktibbeha County began the process for the innovative early childhood community certification that focuses on the community’s youngest children early this year. After conducting a community needs assessment and drafting a community action plan, the Town Hall meeting is the next step that begins to inform the community about the Excel By 5 program.
With information gathered at the town hall meeting, coalition members can begin to develop a community action plan, which provides events and services for Oktibbeha County area families and early care educators.
“I think the Town Hall meeting went well,” said Ellen Goodman, Oktibbeha County Excel By 5 Coalition certification manager. “We had great representation from our county, and people are taking the information and sharing it with family and friends and that’s what we want for them to do to get the word out.”
Carolyn Shelton was in attendance at the meeting with her one-year-old granddaughter, and said she felt the Excel By 5 program was a good idea for the community.
“I think it’s an excellent idea. I’m all for education for our children” Shelton said. “I think there’s a great turn out, and if parents continue to participate like they have today, we should be able to move forward (in education).”
“This is all very exciting,” Mayor Parker Wiseman said of the Excel By 5 certification process. “Increasingly, we are realizing the absolute importance of early childhood education for the long term education of our children. Excel By 5 is a proven successful program, and we’re excited about the prospects of having it in our area.”
Wanting to reach as many people as possible, the Oktibbeha County Excel by 5 Coalition chose the annual Back to School Bash as the venue for the meeting as the bash attracts upwards to 400 people each year. With the certification process hoping to be completed within two years, coalition members felt it imperative to get as many people in the community informed about the program as possible.
“Excel By 5 stresses the need for the community to come together and communicate what resources we already have available for young children and their families,” Goodman said. “This is the beginning of a wonderful process that will benefit Oktibbeha County now and in the years to come.”
In addition to the town hall meeting, the Back to School Bash boosted a variety of information and health screening booths like Mississippi State Extension Services, Even Start, Excel By 5, Golden Triangle Periodontal, Huxford Dentistry, Safe Schools Healthy Students, Families First Resource Center, Starkville Pediatric Center, Crigler Family Vision, Leach Chiropractor Clinic, OCH Regional Medical Center, Girls Scouts, MS Dept. of Health and Oktibbeha County Dept. of Human Services.
“This is the first year I’ve come (to the bash), and I like it because it give you a chance to go too different booths to see what is going on in the community,” Heather Chandler said. “It really is a good event for back to school.”
Rena Walker and her son Jacob have been coming to the bash since it started three years ago.
“It gives children an affordable activity to do on the weekends, and it gets the kids hyped up to go back to school,” Walker explained of her attendance. “My favorite part is watching my child have a good time.”