PNC Wants Every Child to ‘Grow Up Great’
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 percent more likely to graduate high school and 20 percent 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 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.
Grow Up 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, Grow Up Great funds unique early education initiatives, raises awareness of the issue and engages PNC employees in volunteer activities. PNC allows its employees up to 40 hours a year of paid time off to devote to Grow Up 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.
After 10 years working to improve early childhood education, Grow Up Great continues to find new and innovative ways to have an impact. This April, the PNC Foundation announced a $19 million, multi-year vocabulary initiative for underserved pre-kindergarten children, their families and teachers. Children in the city of Chicago are among those who will benefit from three new vocabulary programs supported by PNC, which will introduce various components of the vocabulary initiative across 17 states and the District of Columbia.
“Vocabulary is the cornerstone of a child’s learning,” said Eva Blum, chairwoman and president of the PNC Foundation. “By engaging families, educators and community partners to narrow the vocabulary gap for underserved children, we help increase their opportunities for future success.”
One such program, the University of Chicago Medicine Thirty Million Words® Initiative, led by Dr. Dana Suskind, will engage 200-250 families. This work derives its name from a research study that determined by age four, an at-risk child would have heard 30 million fewer words than a child from a higher-income family. The PNC-funded effort will help parents build their children’s vocabularies and will follow the children from age 15-months to kindergarten as part of a five-year longitudinal study.
Another early education program will create collaborations among community organizations to help families in 10 cities develop positive routines and habits that support children’s vocabulary development. The program will launch in five cities in 2014, and in an additional five cities in 2015.
“Words Are Here, There, and Everywhere” is a third component in PNC’s vocabulary initiative. The bilingual program was created by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame StreetTM, as part of a continuing partnership with PNC. Its first element is a “Words that Help Me Grow” vocabulary tree poster. This fall, Sesame will work with PNC to rollout a free, multimedia educational kit with a DVD featuring Muppets Abby Cadabby and Buzz Word.
“Our support of a comprehensive vocabulary initiative for young children is a strategic investment in both the future of the children and the community,” said Blum.