Home educators prepare for HIPPY program start

Published 12:56 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By By Adam Prestridge
Planning took more than three years, but on Nov. 17 the Friends of Education of Escambia County Alabama Foundation’s first initiative, HIPPY will come to fruition as it begins in Atmore.
HIPPY, an acronym for Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters, will offer parents of three-year-olds the opportunity to get a head start on their schooling prior to entering kindergarten. The program focuses on at-risk and low-income families and offers free home educational training for parents to pass on to their children daily for those families that qualify.
Dianne Rose, who retired from the Escambia County School System in May, serves as the HIPPY coordinator for the foundation and said she is excited that the program is on the verge of starting after recently hiring two home educators for the program. Atmore residents Yvette Watkins and Carla Walden will serve as the program’s fulltime educators and will visit homes weekly to teach parents new material and track the progress of each child.
Watkins is currently a student at Jefferson Davis Community College studying elementary education. She believes the program will not only benefit the children involved, but her as well.
As for Walden, she has had her fair share of experience with children, raising five boys of her own. While doing so, she has coached football, baseball and served as a substitute teacher.
Rose believes both Watkins’ and Walden’s experience with children speaks volumes.
The foundation offered 30 spots for its first year based on funding that fit the criteria, school and teacher recommendations. Rose said 10 spots are still available, which have to be filled prior to the program beginning, and encourages parents to come forward and register.
Walden said she believes some parents are not coming forward due to time constraints.
According to foundation board member Mary Grissett, the HIPPY program will only require parents to allot 15-20 minutes a night, four to five nights a week teaching their children.
Rose said the home educators’ weekly visits with the parents would require 30 minutes.
Families will be provided a packet of lesson plans for 30 weeks and nine correlated books to teach from. The program will follow the school system’s calendar, running from September through May. Rose said this year’s program may be cutback to 25 weeks to ensure it ends with the county’s school schedule.
Rose attended HIPPY training in Arkansas over the summer. A home educator trainer will join Rose on Nov. 12-14 who will help train Watkins and Walden by giving them an overview of the HIPPY program, teaching them the training material and role playing with them.
The HIPPY program is being made possible by a more than $20,000 grant from the Alabama Department of Education, which the foundation applied for as a contracted agency of the Escambia County Board of Education. Grissett said the BOE gave the steering committee full access of test scores, reports, studies and poverty levels to apply for a $15,000 grant to get the program started, which is not affiliated with the BOE and is overseen by the foundation. They were surprised when they received more funding than requested.
The HIPPY program will cost $70,000 annually to run, which includes educational materials for the parents and children, salaries for Rose, Watkins and Walden, and other expenses incurred through the program. According to foundation member Nancy Helton, Joanne Shum, director of HIPPY Alabama, has assured the foundation that the funds will be available for the first year. Businesses, community leaders and citizens will be asked to step up to the plate to help keep the program going.
Grissett said letters would soon be mailed out asking for contributions to the program offering corporate sponsorships, community sponsorships and donations and endowments.
Grissett added that it costs $1,250 for one child to go through the two-year program.
Testing for the HIPPY program will be held Nov. 5 at Rachel Patterson Elementary School.
For more information, contact Rose at 251-359-7302 or email her at hippyescambiaal@hotmail.com.
To be eligible, children must have turned three by Sept. 1, 2008.

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