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Richard King Mellon Foundation Invests in Kindergarten Readiness in Rural Westmoreland County

Posted on February 6, 2023

Westmoreland County, PA (January 30, 2022) – A three-year, $322,500 grant from Richard King Mellon Foundation is making non-traditional preschool opportunities available to families in underserved, rural areas of Westmoreland County. The Learning Lamp and a now expanded kindergarten-readiness initiative is preparing children in the Ligonier Valley, Derry Area, and Greater Latrobe school districts who might otherwise start kindergarten without any formal pre-k.

More than half of eligible children in Westmoreland County do not have access to high-quality, publicly funded pre-kindergarten, according to the most recent study by Pre-K for PA.

“Children’s brains develop the most quickly between the ages of birth and 5. This critical period of childhood sets them up for success in school, which is exactly what the kindergarten readiness program aims to do,” said Heidi McIntosh, Director of the Tiny RAMs program, which serves children living within the boundaries of Ligonier Valley School District. “Strengthening and building bridges between the families and schools is vital,” she added.

Tiny RAMS offers home visits and small group activities in convenient community locations. Sessions help children learn and practice social, early literacy, and other skills. Parents are encouraged to reinforce the learning at home. Tiny RAMS launched in 2019 with support from United Way of Southwestern PA. The intent was to reach children not enrolled in a formal preschool program. Derry Area’s Tiny Trojans fills a similar role. The Learning Lamp worked with the three school districts to fund and launch the effort in new communities, including Greater Latrobe, which enrolled a first group of Little Learners in fall of 2022.

“These future students will not only be academically prepared for kindergarten, but they will have gained friendships that they can foster once they step through those elementary school doors,” said Cynthia Demaio, Director of Latrobe Little Learners.

The Richard King Mellon Foundation has long invested in programs to improve educational opportunities for children in southwestern PA. Kindergarten readiness is one of three priority areas aimed at advancing educational attainment.

Since joining together as partners in the Westmoreland Kindergarten Readiness Program, Tiny RAMS, Tiny Trojans, and Latrobe Little Learners have enrolled 85 children, held 28 story-time and other community or classroom-hosted learning activities, conducted 162 home visits with children and parents, and distributed 85 activity kits to ensure learning continues at home. For more information about Tiny RAMS, visit facebook.com/tinyramprogram. To learn more about Tiny Trojans, visit https://sites.google.com/dasd.us/tinytrojans. If you’re interested in Latrobe Little Learners, you can find more information at https://www.glsd.us/.

For more information on programs and services offered through The Learning Lamp, contact Kerri Belardi, Communications Director, at 814-262-0732 or visit thelearninglamp.org


The Learning Lamp is a nonprofit organization with a mission to engage all children in the support they need to succeed. We deliver high quality programs that are affordable and accessible to families of all income levels. In 2021, The Learning Lamp served 28,160 youth/adults from 51 public school districts and 69 other schools and organizations in 19 Pennsylvania counties.

 Our programs include: one-to-one tutoring; before/after school programs; portable classrooms aimed at building math and science skills; alternative education programs for at-risk students; evidence-based prevention programs; online learning and credit recovery; SAT preparation; educationally-focused child care; literacy-based preschool programs; and grant writing and project consulting for schools.

The latest on Instagram:

  • @thelearninglamp:Playing is hard work. Sometimes you just have to sit and take a break. #thelearninglamp #childcare #kids
  • @thelearninglamp:Summer planning just got a whole lot easier for child care and other youth-serving programs in Pennsylvania thanks to Best Day Ever! The ready-made, child and teacher-tested resource offers 24 free summer camp lesson plans for preschool and school-aged children. Find out more at https://lnkd.in/eDtxciDZ.
  • @thelearninglamp:The Employee Spotlight this week features Laura Strauch, a Preschool Teacher for The Learning Lamp’s child care center at Highlands Hospital in Connellsville. Laura has been working in childcare for almost 15 years, so it was a natural fit when she joined The Learning Lamp in June 2022. “I have had the opportunity to create my dream classroom that is a fun, yet educational atmosphere,” said Strauch. “Every day I learn something new about myself and how I can best teach each child in my care.” She is also adamant about passing on the knowledge she has learned to younger childcare workers at her center. “I recently finished my training to be a coach for the pre-apprenticeship program, and I’m very excited to be a part of it,” said Strauch. “I hope that sharing my experiences will benefit others! Thank you, Laura, for your dedication to child care and the children we serve! #employeespotlight #ouremployeesareawesome #awesomeemployees #greatemployees
  • @thelearninglamp:YOU can make a difference when you work with students as a Personal Care Aide in the classroom setting. Ignite Education Solutions is hiring now Personal Care Aides for the high school in the Westmont area. This position offers a flexible schedule -- when school is off, so are you, advancement opportunities, training, and more! Qualified candidates must have a high school diploma and the ability to pass required clearances. Apply today! https://thelearninglamp.workbrightats.com/jobs/929239-92234.html

From Facebook:

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No nights or weekends, and holidays off! We're hiring a part-time Preschool Aide to work in the Claysburg area. Build a career with an organization that offers room to grow! Successful candidate must have a high school diploma and 2 years of experience (this can include volunteer work, babysitting children other than your own, and more - just ask us!). Apply online today at thelearninglamp.workbrightats.com/jobs/948217-92234.html.

#helpwanted #workwithkids #childcare #childcarejobs #jobseekers #nowhiring
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3 hours ago
No nights or weekends, and holidays off! Were hiring a part-time Preschool Aide to work in the Claysburg area. Build a career with an organization that offers room to grow! Successful candidate must have a high school diploma and 2 years of experience (this can include volunteer work, babysitting children other than your own, and more - just ask us!). Apply online today at https://thelearninglamp.workbrightats.com/jobs/948217-92234.html.

#helpwanted #workwithkids #childcare #childcarejobs #jobseekers #nowhiring