Milwaukee-based organizations Next Door and the United Community Center were awarded $13.5 million in federal grants to support their early childhood education programs.
The Head Start and Early Head Start funding will support programs serving more than 1,200 infants and toddlers living in poverty in Milwaukee, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced today at the Milwaukee Public Library.
“In Milwaukee, this funding will be a transformative community asset, preparing children for kindergarten and supporting families through these critical years in their children’s lives,” Barrett said. “This allows us to continue our early childhood initiatives for Milwaukee, putting our youngest residents first.”
Barrett stressed the importance of having high-quality early childhood programs to serve children during their critical developmental years. Research indicates that more than 90 percent of a child’s brain development occurs in the first five years, which sets a foundation for long-term learning and development.
"If we don't invest resources in those first five years, we're losing the opportunity of a lifetime," Barrett said.
Next Door provides early childhood education and family support services to more than 1,400 children across two center-based locations, a home visitation program and 11 partnership sites.
With the funding, Next Door will serve a total of 749 children, including 629 Head Start students (ages 3 to 5) and 120 Early Head Start students (ages 6 weeks to 3).
“This investment in children in our community is critically important in building a stronger future for Milwaukee,” said Tracey Sparrow, president Next Door. “Support of high quality early childhood education ... will help prepare children for success in school and begin to close the achievement gap for children living in poverty.”
The UCC provides educational, cultural, recreation, community development and health and human services programs to Hispanics and residents of Milwaukee’s near south side.
With the grant, UCC will serve a total of 510 children, including 422 Head Start students and 88 Early Head Start students. The organization recently opened its new Early Learning Academy at 2210 West Becher St.
“We are thrilled to see the investment in early childhood education in Milwaukee that will fuel change and lay the foundation for success in at-risk communities across Milwaukee,” said Ricardo Diaz, executive director of UCC. “This is an exciting step forward to ensure every child, regardless of circumstances at birth, is given the opportunity to succeed.”