HIPPY seeking local assistance

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The word “hippy” stirs memories of the past when a whole generation ran wild and free during the 1960s.

Today, the word means something quite different. Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) is a parent involvement, school readiness program that helps parents prepare their three-, four- and five-year-old children for success in school and for their future.

“We teach parents and kids before they enter the school system,” HIPPY coordinator Diane Rose said. “In the beginning, we had to look for kids to participate, and now we have more than 75. They are looking for us now that the program has been going on for three years.”

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Rose said that they are like all other organizations in the education field and have found themselves digging deep into their pockets with very little money to work with. The organization, which is sponsored by the Friends of Education of Escambia County Alabama Foundation, has depended on the Alabama State Department of Education for a majority of its funding its first two years, but as state cuts continue to trickle down, funds for the HIPPY program have also been decreased.

“When all the other schools and programs got cut, we did too,” Education Foundation director Nancy Helton said.

Rep. Alan Baker, Sen. Marc Keahey and Rep. Harry Shiver have also assisted in funding in year’s past, but with less to hand out, it will soon get hard to make ends meet.

With funds diminishing, board members for the Friends of Education are seeking help from the businesses and residents in and around the Atmore community to help make up the funding difference.

“It will help to pay for the children with the loss of funding we have had to deal with and to keep the program viable,” Helton said.

The 30-week HIPPY program cost $1,250 per child and includes materials, testing fees, licensing and a portion of the home educators ‘and coordinator’s salaries, according to Helton.

HIPPY helps parents know the right way to approach children to get them interested so that when they do enter school, they are more prepared for the work ahead. Parents are the first teachers of their children and what better way to prepare than to begin during the pre-school years?

“Children are like sponges,” Rose said. “They soak up everything we give them. These first years are very important to them before they enter the school system. We don’t teach the children ourselves. We just furnish the materials for the parents to do the teaching. It is a unique program and it is free to those who want to take advantage of it. We stack up all the applications and go down the stack until we don’t have any more materials. I am so excited about it and we have been doing this long enough to know that it is working.”

If you would like to contribute to the HIPPY program, contact Rose at 368-5478.

HIPPY coordinator Diane Rose hands a 2010 HIPPY graduate a gift during the HIPPY graduation.|File Photo