Excel By 5 certification managers from the northern region, chimed in on information that could be vital to the cultivation of their community certification process.
"It is important for community coalition members to come to the meetings because it gives them the opportunity to listen to other communities and exchange ideas," Sites Coordinator Mechelle Wallace.
The meeting began with each community leader sharing what is called "aha moments."
"It is good for communities to share ‘aha’ moments because it helps other community leaders to understand various methods that can be used to better serve their communities. These are moment when coalition members host events and members of the community share what they have learned as a result of the event," she added.
Certification Manager Mary Reddies of Duncan said that the certification process is progressing very well in her community.
"We are a small community but we still try to reach out to our citizens by utilizing our resources. We are now targeting our parents because parental involvement is important during our certification journey," said Reddies.
Indianola recently received its certification and according to Mayor Steve Rosenthal, the certification process is just the beginning.
"Our city was up and down, up and down with the certification process but we did it. I am excited that our coalition members took the necessary steps to begin the process and now we are really into the process of what the certification is all about," said Rosenthal.
"I am so proud that we are partnered with Cleveland because they helped us a great deal with the certification process," he added
The Excel By 5 certification process has been around for over 10 years and Cleveland was one of the first communities to receive certification.
"We are trying to keep things going. We don’t want to stop because we want to leave a legacy that is good and positive," said Cleveland Coalition member Patsy Clerk.
"The key to success with Excel By 5 is to have the right people on your team and proper communication," she added.
In order for a community to qualify, it has to host various community wide events and workshops that focus on school readiness, health issues and family support.
The certification process identifies available resources and existing best practices to help Excel By 5 — Early Childhood Communities reach the goal that all of their children will be ready to learn when they start school at age five.
The coalition uses surveys to aid with planning events and workshops.
A community's certification lasts for three years and it has to meet specific requirements before it is certified "child friendly."
Although it may seem like an easy process, some coalition members said that it is sometimes hard to receive donations in order to host community events.
Phil Nanney of New Albany said that he rallies the support of banks in his community.
"Banks are very important and essential to a community coalition because some banks have a branch that specifically aids in community efforts," said Nanney.
"It is also good to reach out to the chamber of commerce for support and philanthropic organizations," he added.
Throughout the meeting, a large number of coalition members mentioned they utilize the library system and schools within their communities to host "child friendly" events.
According to Sites Coordinator Bob Clay, it is important for coalition members to utilize resources within their communities.
"You need to build a strong relationship with the schools in your communities and childcare providers because they are rich resources that can aid in the certification process because they can easily get the word out to parents and the parents may be able to provide some useful information or feedback," said Clay.
Excel By 5 is set to host its next quarterly meeting in April.
A date and location have not yet been determined for the meeting.