Fortune 500 company sees value in Picayune Early Head Start

Published 7:00 am Friday, March 10, 2017

Large corporations and individuals contributed nearly $1.6 million to benefit early learning collaboratives in Mississippi in 2016, including a total tax credit donation of $90,000 to the Picayune School District’s Early Head Start program.

Multiple donors provided the additional support for the advancement in student education at Picayune Early Head Start, including a Fortune 500 company that was labeled by Fortune 500 as one of the World’s Most Admired Companies for 2016, Universal Health Services, Inc.

“I think it is an honor for a company of this magnitude wanting to donate to our Pre-K Program,” Pam Thomas, director of Picayune Early Head Start, said. “They can see the value, worth and effectiveness in early childhood learning programs and the great educational advantage of some of the less fortunate children whose parents cannot afford expensive daycare.”

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The tax credit donations received by the Picayune Early Head Start will go toward the Picayune School District Early learning Pre-K Collaborative, filling an important gap in the district’s educational services, Thomas said.

Thomas explained that although the district has made programs available for children from birth through the age of three, there was a gap of services for children at the age of four.

“There was a real need to fill this gap, especially among families who made too much money to qualify for Head Start, but not enough money to afford private preschool programs,” Thomas said, after expressing her gratitude for the community for supporting their bid to apply for ELC funding.

For Thomas, this funding does more than fill a gap; it prepares children for the transition into kindergarten.

“Four-year-olds get a firsthand experience of socially interacting with both adults and children in an environment like Head Start. That is vital for their development because when they get to kindergarten, being in school isn’t new or scary to them,” Thomas said.

In 2016, all of Mississippi’s ELC programs reached the mark on the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, which indicates whether students are prepared for their first year of kindergarten.