Toyota Boosts Investment in Kentucky Early Learning Program
From guest blogger Alyssa Morones
For young children, even the most mundane daily activities can be turned into learning experiences. More Kentucky parents and caregivers will be given the keys to help their children unlock this everyday education next year, as Toyota announced Monday its pledge to double its corporate sponsorship of the their "bornlearning Academies" to $1 million.
Fewer than one in five Kentucky students entering kindergarten are prepared for school. The academies, which are based at elementary schools throughout the state, strive to close that gap by providing parents and caregivers with the tools they need to support their child's future academic performance from an early age.
Parents attend six workshops, which start during pregnancy and continue until the child is five years old, to engage in hands-on activities and discussions centered on school readiness. Over the course of the workshops, parents and caregivers learn how to incorporate learning into everyday activities, appropriate nutrition for their growing children, and emotional development, among other subjects.
"If children aren't ready for school when they enter kindergarten, it's very hard for them to catch up," said Rick Hesterberg, the manager of community relations for Toyota. "We decided that if we could try a program that addresses that issue at its root cause, there would be a much better opportunity for those kids to be school ready."
The academies were created last year through a corporate sponsorship of over $500,000 by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky in Georgetown, Ky. and Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North American in Erlanger, Ky. The Georgetown plant is Toyota's largest manufacturing facility outside of Japan, and builds the Avalon, Camry and Venza.
"Education is central to our philanthropic values, so when looking at where we wanted to invest, education seemed like the right and smart place," said Hesterberg. "Better-prepped youngsters lead to more success and a more competitive workforce."
Through Toyota's funds, the United Way of Kentucky, in conjunction with other organizations, started 10 academies. The positive feedback from parents led to the company's promise to increase its sponsorship to $1 million by 2016. This will allow for the addition of 12 programs for the upcoming school year. By 2016, Toyota's goal is to have 62 academies in the state.