by Michelle Hiskey
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has awarded a three-year, $217,158 challenge grant to help Georgia State University prepare students from local technical colleges to teach the state’s youngest children.
Fifteen outstanding students from Atlanta and Gwinnett Technical Colleges and Georgia Piedmont Technical (formerly DeKalb Technical College) will receive scholarships toward bachelor’s degrees and certification in the GSU College of Education’s Birth Through Five Program.
The funding will also reach 10 local childcare centers that apply to participate as classrooms for this training program. The centers will represent metro Atlanta’s diverse population. From 800 to 1,000 children and their current teachers are expected to benefit from the GSU training.
“Our goal is to build a pipeline of early care and learning professionals and a network of partner centers to improve the quality of early childhood education across the state,” said Ruth Saxton of GSU’s College of Education and the B-5 program coordinator.
National and state mandates dictate improvement in teacher quality and credentials, she pointed out, and universities must play a larger role in equipping those who teach Georgia’s youngest students.
From birth to age five, a child undergoes critical brain development that shapes lifelong physical, social, emotional and cognitive well-being.
That age span is an intense focus of the Blank Foundation’s Better Beginnings Program. Most of its funding is directed to children 5 and under living in Atlanta, and their parents and caregivers — particularly those in high-need communities.
“This investment provides emerging early childhood educators with a clear academic and career path to a four-year Bachelor’s degree and also provides professional development and technical assistance for existing childcare teachers and centers. The program ensures that our youngest students will have a high-quality early learning experience with well-qualified teachers,” said Foundation President Penelope McPhee.
GSU’s Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.E.) major in Birth Through Five prepares teachers and other early care and education professionals to work in varied settings with young children from infancy through kindergarten age, including those with disabilities. The program provides a multidisciplinary, comprehensive and holistic approach to working with young children and families in diverse settings.
This grant highlights GSU’s position as a unique educational hub for Georgia. GSU is the only institution, public or private, currently offering the B-5 program with an articulation agreement that allows transfer of academic credits from all 26 technical colleges in Georgia.
GSU’s College of Education features more than 3,700 students enrolled in more than 50 degree programs, offered within six academic departments. The COE is recognized as a leader in preparing successful educators and human development professionals to work in large city schools. Partnerships in classrooms — stretching from urban Atlanta to distant points on the globe — help the COE train students and further equip current teachers. The COE provides students with skills, competencies and attitudes that will allow them to function in the world of tomorrow, today.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, formed in 1995, promotes innovative solutions to improve the lives of youth and their families, seeking results that move communities beyond what seems possible today. The Foundation invests in early childhood development, education, greenspace, and the arts and leads giving programs for each of the Blank Family of Businesses, including the Atlanta Falcons. Mr. Blank co-founded The Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, in 1978 and retired from the company as co-chairman in 2001. Through the foundation and his family’s personal giving, Mr. Blank has granted more than $250 million to various charitable organizations. For more information, visit www.BlankFoundation.org.