Trust Launches Decade-Long, $30 Million Early Childhood Initiative

Great Expectations aims to prepare Forsyth County’s children for a lifetime of success

Today, the Trust announced the launch of Great Expectations, a decade-long, $30 to $40 million effort to ensure that Forsyth County’s youngest children have the foundation to be successful in school and life by the time they complete kindergarten.

Thousands of children in Forsyth County, many from financially disadvantaged families, arrive in kindergarten each year at risk of falling behind their classmates. The goal of Great Expectations is for at least 90 percent of all financially disadvantaged children living in Forsyth County – between birth and exiting kindergarten – to reach age-appropriate developmental milestones.

“Today is the end of one long journey and the beginning of another. For the last several years we have been working closely with individuals and organizations to design a strategy that ensures every child in Forsyth County has the opportunity to succeed from a young age,” said Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Now it is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work to help build an effective early childhood system that helps meet the challenges created when families live in poverty.”

Great Expectations will invest in strategies to increase community engagement, improve the systems that serve families, share knowledge and lessons learned, and build provider capacity. The initiative will also focus on direct services to children and adult caregivers in the following core priority areas:

Improving child and family health
Improving self-regulation and executive function among children and adults
Improving parent-child interactions and adult caregiving capacity
Supporting children’s oral language and vocabulary development
Building systems and strengthening families
The Trust also announced over $1.4 million in grant funding to the Forsyth County Public Library, First Book and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to expand Great Expectation work around the community.

The grant to the Library will support seven library branches and two bookmobile units to create new and engaging learning spaces geared toward pre-school aged children. It will provide new books, book sets, DVDs and technology to promote a positive literary experience.

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools grant will install or significantly improve playgrounds at 23 Title 1 schools. Many of these schools are located in neighborhoods that are considered low-to moderate-income where there are also fewer outlets for physical activity for the local children. These playground improvements will also provide opportunities for residents to use the equipment during non-school hours and days.

First Book will work with 1,000 educators across Forsyth County, particularly in financially disadvantaged areas, to provide access to high quality, diverse books carefully screened and selected that are age-appropriate over the next two years.

“At its core, Great Expectations is about community collaboration. We plan to bring individuals and organizations together in a cohesive effort to improve early childhood development in Forsyth County,” said Joe Crocker, director of the Poor and Needy Division at the Trust. “Together we will help ensure that children enter kindergarten ready for the grand adventure of schooling, and leave kindergarten ready for success.”

“Before her death in 1946, Kate B. Reynolds established the Trust to continue her life’s work to improve the quality of life for the financially needy of North Carolina,” said McNeil-Miller. “As part of that vision, the Trust has long been committed to the success of children in Forsyth County, and we are excited to continue carrying out that vision by changing the way our community works together to support our youngest residents.”

The Trust announced the decade-long initiative at a community launch event at Carver School Road Library attended by local parents, children and representatives from some of the area’s business community and nonprofits focused on education issues and family services.

For more information about Great Expectations, visit https://kbr.org/content/great-expectations.

The Activation Plan for Great Expectations can be found here.