Why Should I Care About Early Childhood Education?


Brewster Elementary Students showing off crafts made during G.R.O.W.


Complaints about the cost of childcare are common in my circle of friends, but there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our children to be educated and ready for school when that time comes. And for my circle, the reality is that we can all afford it. We may think we can’t because it cuts into our savings or our vacation budget or our clothing budget, but at the end of the day, we can make it work.

Sure, I have friends who stay at home with their children and teach them all the things their children will need to know when it comes time for Kindergarten. (How they have the patience for that is something I will never know!) And I have other friends whose children have special needs, and these parents amazingly find all the resources out there to give their children the best chance of success possible. Providing these learning opportunities is giving our children a leg up. They show up to kindergarten knowing the alphabet, the sounds that letters make, simple math and even a little reading.

I wish every child had the opportunities that my and my friends’ children have. The reality is that they don’t. The reality is that the childcare that I and many of my friends are paying for costs close to what a minimum wage worker brings home in a year. The reality is that in Memphis, a city with a 28.3% poverty rate, a good majority of families don’t have the option of cutting out savings or a vacation budget to pay for daycare. It would be cutting out rent and food.

Memphis only has about half of the pre-kindergarten spots that we need. About 9,000 kids start kindergarten each year and there is roughly half of that number of pre-K spots. While it’s fantastic that Memphis recently received a huge federal grant to add 1,000 pre-K spots over the next three years, it’s simply not enough. There are roughly 3,000 spots still needed.

The research around early childhood education shows that students who have access to pre-K are more successful in school and in life. They have stronger test scores and are less likely to drop out of high school.

The Junior League of Memphis has a special place to be able to help the lives of students. Under the umbrella of our G.R.O.W. initiative at Lester Community Center, the JLM has volunteers working with pre-K and kindergarten students at Brewster Elementary. This is a great example of the work that is being done to help students succeed. According to Reading at Brewster Chair, Erica Coopwood, “The G.R.O.W. program, while designed to be fun, always has an educational component that coincides with the children’s curriculum to help them reach their full potential and have a great time doing it.”

JLM G.R.O.W. volunteers at Brewster Elementary

JLM G.R.O.W. volunteers at Brewster Elementary School

The reality is that there is great work happening with the children at Brewster and Lester Community Center. The JLM volunteers are helping to ensure that these children receive their leg up and be successful down the road in school and in life. The JLM is making a collective impact on the lives of children who are the future of Memphis.

Sarah Colley

Community Task Force Volunteer, 2014-2015

Junior League of Memphis

What is Issue Based Community Impact?

Issue Based Community Impact (IBCI) is a new catch phrase around Junior Leagues all across the country, but what is it exactly? Simply put, it is a strategy to determine which issues the JLM can really impact and how the JLM can help move the needle in Memphis.

For example, the JLM averages eight to ten community projects annually across a myriad of issues – health and wellness, education, grief, diversity, etc. Therefore, we know the JLM’s projects are widespread but not necessarily very focused…which begs the question: “Are we truly making the kind of impact we desire in our community?”

After much thought and discussion among leadership and members, the Community Impact Committee was formed last year to help answer this question and to capture the pulse of Memphis’ current community issues where JLM could best serve. This research group, now in its second year, has held a series of focus groups, met with various organizations and combed through a multitude of statistics to help recommend issues to the JLM.

The three issues that have risen to the top are:

1.  Neighborhood Revitalization
2.  Education
3.  Literacy

In January, the Community Impact Committee will be providing more information on these three issue areas via this blog and other communication outlets, including our social media accounts.

Come to the General Membership Meeting tonight at the Orpheum to hear more and stay tuned to this blog for more details on each issue.

It’s an exciting time to be in the JLM as we’re working hard to transform Memphis! We hope you are as excited as we are about this next step in the future of the JLM.  If you have questions, please direct them to Kristen Bland, Community Impact Chair, at kmt23_2000@yahoo.com.