After the 2014 Listening Tour conducted by Rural Philanthropy Days stakeholders and the subsequent events in Pagosa Springs, the Southwest Council learned that high-quality, early childhood education was a major issue in the region and a plethora of data validated this concern. According to research, the U.S. spends over $75 billion annually to incarcerate prisoners. Of those incarcerated, 70% did not graduate high school. Further research found that these inmates lacked the foundation for success that high-quality preschool and early education programs provide. Therefore, seeking to have the greatest impact with our grant making, early childhood education appeared to hold great potential. Either invest today in high-quality, early childhood programs or pay greater costs later. (Please see link below for more information) https://www.denvergov.org/Portals/713/documents/Economic%20Implications.pdf
But the question remained, “where to invest?” Given we are not educators, we needed to gain the input of educational experts and stakeholders in the region. After convening leaders from the area, we learned several independent entities were active in the region, but there was opportunity for greater impact if we could help these organizations collaborate. To that end, the Early Childhood Collaborative was established consisting of the Montelores and La Plata Early Childhood Councils as well as with leaders from San Juan and Archuleta counties.
The primary objectives of the Collaborative were to increase access and affordability of childcare combined with retaining qualified professionals to support the programs. By 2015, the Collaborative had successfully increased the number of early childhood slots by 69 and funded an early childhood education coordinator in Archuleta County. As a result of the Southwest Council’s funding, the early childhood education networks are now more connected and are exploring methods to further improve early childhood education opportunities in the region.
If you know where you’re heading it’s easier to get there. Therefore, benchmarks and measurable objectives were outlined before funding and then detailed in the grant. This has created an agreed upon vision for both the grantees and the Council for sustainable and regional impact. Success may not happen overnight and that’s why a long-term perspective is taken in these multi-year grants. A roadmap designed by both parties lays a firm foundation for a strategic partnership and ongoing success.