A community has nothing if it doesn't have a future.
So the people and institutions that protect the future, nourish it, and keep it safe are irreplaceable.
In Cedaredge, the Little Sprouts Preschool has been filling that community need for 16 years.
Children, ages two-and-a-half to five have found a safe place there to learn and to grow under the care of the school staff. The teachers don't work for pay and benefits, but rather they labor for a love. That love is for the children who are put in their care, for the families, and for the community they depend on and share – in a word, the future.
Little Sprouts' unique and creative role in the community comes from the vision and the work of its staff. Eight teachers and preschool director Kim Frost provide the programs, activities, and curriculum that guide 79 current students in the processes of socialization, successful family interactions, and, by the time they are ready to enter kindergarten, learning that learning isfun.
Frost is joined in the school's work by teachers Renee Deal, Carolyn Stumpf, Susan Van Scoyk, Resa Fuller, Lora Ely, Kristin Hatheway, Lisa Wright, and Debbie Carlson. They are advised by an involved seven-member community board of directors.
State certification and specialized study in early child development are required for everyone on the Little Sprouts staff. But the state rules are no limitation to what teachers can bring for enriching the children's lives and learning. An example Frost cites is one staff member who has a degree in chemical engineering. Not only is her service to the school amplified by her choosing to work there, but the children are getting atremendous learning boost from interactions with their professional-grade preschool science teacher.
Another staff member, Frost explains, has professional experience in child motor and behavioral development. Her observations have helped some families discover issues and provide early intervention which, if left unattended, could have led to real problems later in the child's life.
"We all have different backgrounds," Frost says. Whether homemaker, mom, or professional scientist, the staff's commitment to the children and their families is the same for all – a total commitment.
Little Sprouts has created a vital, indispensable community role for itself by its dedicated, heart-felt commitment to meeting a real need. Since 1995 when Jenna Wright began the school with 12 children in theCedaredge Methodist Church, Little Sprouts has grown and developed even as its students have.
There are many angels watching over Little Sprouts Preschool. One of them in particular, the Cedaredge United Methodist Women's group, has been an unfailing pillar of friendship and help from the start, Frost says. And the staff and students of Little Sprouts have taken a lesson from that example; the entire school participates in fund raising activities for projects in the community other than ones for their own school.
"Every child," says the Little Sprouts mission statement, "deserves a clean, safe, and loving environment in which to learn and grow. It is our responsibility to provide a nurturing atmosphere with a defined set of goals in order to meet and exceed those expectations."
Judging from parent comments, Little Sprouts Preschool is living up to its own lofty expectations. A collection of testimonials from Little Sprouts families shows that.
"School has just started and my son has already learned so much. We love his teacher, and he is always so excited for school to begin."
"I had another child attend the Little Sprouts program. Our experience has been excellent."
"Little Sprouts Preschool is by far the best pre-school program in Delta County. Both our children are doing exceptionally well."
Frost had worked for years as a reading tutor in local schools, and admits that when she came to Little Sprouts at first she expected to find "a sort of glorified day care or babysitting service." To her great and pleasant surprise she found something totally different – a curriculum-based program where certified teachers prepare real lesson plans and interact with children in level-appropriate academic areas of math skills, handwriting, phonics-based literacy, and music. It is a school that holds parent-teacher conferences and provides staff development with two instructor in-service each year.
Kindergarten teachers tell Frost they easily see which of their students are Little Sprouts grads.
Parents who may think that the private school's tuition puts its benefits beyond their reach may want to think again, and contact the school about tuition assistance programs that are available. The school has earned many friends in the community who contribute private support, some of which is available for helping with tuition costs.
In addition, the Colorado Preschool Program (CPP) through the cooperation of School District 51 currently helps pay costs for 25 Little Sprouts students. Frost is hopeful that if District 51 opens a preschool in the new Cedaredge Elementary that the CPP students and their parents will continue to have the option of attending Little Sprouts.
Frost, her staff, and board of directors know the need for quality pre-school in Cedaredge and Surface Creek Valley is greater than Little Sprouts currently serves. The school's present enrollment is fewer than the 105 children total it is licensed to have, so need is there. School district officials believe there are many additional Surface Creek Valley preschoolers who meet the criteria to qualify for CPP-funded programs, and they hope that program money will be available for them someday.
The thanks of families, the support of community groups, and the recognition of educators all give ample witness to the need for Little Sprouts and to its success filling that need.
But what do the students themselves say? What would they tell about the work that Little Sprouts does, and about what is important to them? Frost says she will never forget the child who came to her and confided, "I feel safe here."blog comments powered by Disqus