$20,000 grant from Phoenix Suns Charities to support the Early Learning Readiness (ELR) program, a national YMCA initiative, at Chandler-Gilbert Family YMCA.

This program will target the Central Chandler community where many young children are not enrolled in preschool programs but rather remain in the care of parents or other informal care givers until they are ready to enter kindergarten. Parents and informal care providers offer safe and loving care for these children, but often do not have the resources to provide children with the early learning skills they need for school success. As a result, these children lag behind their preschool educated peers. This disadvantage often follows children throughout their school years and into adulthood. According to Bill Gates, “The first five years have a great impact on how the next 80 turn out.”
ELR’s goal is to expand the knowledge and skills of parents and informal caregivers of children, ages 1-5, who are not enrolled in formal preschool. Expanded knowledge and skills will enable these parents and caregivers to assume the role of “first teacher” and effectively prepare all children in their care for school success. ELR runs for 38-weeks (following local school district calendar) and is offered free of charge though grant funding. Caregivers and children attend bi-weekly, two-hour ELR sessions together. Sessions are led by a facilitator, who mentors the caregiver in their new role as “early childhood educator.” A typical session consists of opening circle time with songs and stories followed by brief “caregiver-talk,” which covers early childhood development topics and available community resources. This is followed by a time for caregivers and children to explore thirteen learning centers. During this time, the facilitator guides the caregiver on how to best support the learning process. Caregivers are also shown how to implement similar learning activities at home. The session ends with a closing circle and a recap of the day’s learning.
The YMCA ELR model has shown tremendous results in similar communities nationwide. Parents and caregivers improved knowledge of school readiness expectations and implemented many new learning activities at home. Furthermore, enrolled children had significant improvements in school readiness domains.
Arizona Sports Tourism Authority Biennial Grant
The Valley of the Sun YMCA has been awarded a grant of $42,951 from the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority (AZSTA). This grant will assist with the purchase of sports and aquatic equipment for 11 of the Valley of the Sun YMCA Maricopa County branches. Thanks to this support, the Valley of the Sun YMCA will be able to offer additional sports and aquatic scholarships to Maricopa County youth facing financial hardship in 2016.