Elyjiha is a precocious 3-year-old who looks forward to joining his preschool classmates for exciting educational activities throughout the school year. His classroom features a number of educational resources designed to enhance the learning environment and inspire young minds to think creatively.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all children routinely had access to these types of high-quality early learning experiences?
Over the years, several studies have demonstrated that children enrolled in quality preschool programs tend to experience more success in school and life than their peers who don’t have the same opportunity.
More specifically, research shows that early childhood education improves children’s cognitive and social/emotional abilities, helps to create a foundation for lifelong learning, makes learning outcomes more equitable, reduces poverty, and improves social mobility from generation to generation. As an example, a recent study by Georgetown University researchers concluded that children who attended Tulsa, Oklahoma’s universal pre-K programs continue to do better in math, excel in honors course enrollment and avoid repeating a grade through middle school.
Despite the many benefits of high-quality pre-K, it’s clear that children from low- to moderate-income families have far fewer opportunities to attend exceptional preschool programs, which all too frequently means they enter Kindergarten far behind their peers.
At PNC, we are convinced that early childhood education offers the best return for our philanthropic dollars, with a benefit as high as $13 for every dollar invested. That’s why we created PNC Grow Up Great®, a $350 million, multi-year, bilingual initiative that began in 2004 to support quality early childhood education and help primarily underserved children succeed in school and life.
Despite programs such as Grow Up Great that help provide additional support to early education programs, many schools, especially those serving at-risk children, just don’t have the financial resources necessary to provide strong preschool experiences and essential classroom resources so vital to high-quality programs. Across the country, teachers are accessing their own funds to purchase necessary education materials that cash-strapped schools just can’t provide. A recent study by the National Head Start Association revealed that 88 percent of Head Start teachers reached into their own pockets to purchase up to $500 on school supplies, and 10 percent spent more than $1,000.
To address this issue, in 2017, PNC teamed up with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that connects individual donors with classrooms in need, to help teachers obtain quality resources and experiences for students in public pre-K, charter and Head Start classrooms across the country.
The PNC Foundation launched the partnership by -funding hundreds of pre-K project requests on DonorsChoose.org as part of a $5 million initiative to help teachers obtain the resources they need to inspire their students’ love of learning. Citizens who wanted to lend a helping hand donated more than $2.1 million to support nearly 6,700 pre-K projects that were eligible for the match funding by PNC. The initiative enabled DonorsChoose.org to expand its education-funding platform to include project requests from Head Start teachers for the first time. So far, the partnership has benefited approximately 244,000 children.
In Florida, we are doing our part.
Since PNC Bank expanded into Florida, we have awarded nearly $4,000,000 statewide to early childhood education programs including professional development, STEAM classroom materials, take-home kits for families, museum field trips and in-class STEAM demonstrations. This year, public schools like Village Academy in Palm Beach, Sunland Park in Broward, and Waterbridge Elementary in Orlando were inspired by PNC’s Grow Up Great program and received grants to create their own permanent STEAM Labs as a resource for the school.
The program was so successful that PNC recently announced the second year of its partnership with DonorsChoose.org. This year, the PNC Foundation surprised more than 3,700 pre-K teachers within the PNC footprint who submitted projects on DonorsChoose.org over the past year by funding $100 electronic gift cards they can use to support preschool projects on the site. PNC will again match donations on DonorsChoose.org up to $1,000 per project for eligible projects (those within footprint and with a project goal of $1,500 or less), subject to the exhaustion of designated funds. In addition, PNC awarded 33 teacher heroes in the markets it serves with two $2,000 DonorsChoose.org gift cards – one to fund a project in his/her classroom and one to help seed other pre-K projects.
Throughout the year, teachers will be posting projects and relying on their friends and neighbors to help make a difference in the lives of preschool students. I encourage everyone who cares about children to visit DonorsChoose.org and support a preschool project in your community. With your help, even more children will have access to educational resources that will enhance their learning experiences and increase their odds of success in school and life.
Editorial By Cressman Bronson, PNC Bank Regional President, Southeast Florida