Best Practices
October 29, 2014

PNC's GREAT Program Promotes Pre-K Partnerships


The research is clear: high-quality early education is a significant predictor of future success. At-risk children who receive first-rate preschool experiences are far more likely to have greater educational achievements, higher vocational aspirations, and greater societal contributions later in life than their peers not afforded the same quality programs. In fact, they are 17% more likely to graduate high school and 20% more likely to earn a competitive salary by age 40.

In an effort to help even more children reap these benefits, The PNC Financial Services Group’s $350 million Grow Up Great (GREAT) initiative, now 10 years old, has set out to improve early childhood education through a combination of program funding, awareness building, and direct volunteer efforts.

GREAT began in 2004 with a worthwhile goal: to help prepare children from birth to age 5—particularly underserved children—for success in school and life. Over the past decade, the program has served more than 2 million children. Noted for its comprehensive approach, GREAT funds unique early education initiatives, raises awareness of the issue, and engages PNC employees in volunteer activities.

As part of PNC’s $13 million pre-K science initiative, participating science centers connect with early childhood education (ECE) classrooms to provide teacher professional development, create developmentally appropriate children’s activities, and engage parents in their child’s education. In addition, PNC maximized its grant investments by creating an online lesson center that allows teachers to access the developed lesson materials.

In order to raise awareness about the importance of school readiness, PNC provides helpful tips, fun activities, and other educational resources through the distribution of nearly 3 million free Sesame Workshop bilingual multi-media kits. Further, PNC executives themselves continue to advocate for increased investment in ECE, noting that ECE is a workforce and economic development tool critical to the health of the community.

Notably, PNC allows its employees up to 40 hours a year of paid time off to devote to GREAT volunteerism. Since the program’s inception, more than 39,000 employees have volunteered, logging more than 410,000 volunteer hours at early childhood education centers.

PNC strongly believes that authentic partnerships enhance credibility and impact. Collaboration with school districts as well as highly-respected ECE nonprofits is at the cornerstone of what has made this program such a success.

“The (GREAT) program is a strong example of what we can achieve together for our children when the business sector collaborates with the school system on behalf of all of the children…Grow Up Great makes learning fun!” said Barbara Byrd Bennett, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.

The PNC Financial Services Group is a finalist for the “Best Commitment to Education” award through the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center. Be there when the winners are named on November 20 by registering to attend the Chamber Foundation’s Citizens Awards Celebration. To learn more about PNC and GREAT, please visit the program website