Lynchburg, VA (The News & Advance) / “Pre-K Ambassador” might not be a well-known moniker around Lynchburg now, but members of the city’s Poverty to Progress pre-Kindergarten Education Committee hope to change that later this month.

The committee will hold three “Pre-K Ambassador” awareness sessions Sept. 20 at 9 a.m., noon and 5:30 p.m. at Amazement Square. The hour and a half sessions will help community members learn about the importance of quality pre-K programs and how to access them, according to a letter from Committee Chair Dr. Terry Brennan and Lynchburg City Schools Director of Special Education Wyllys VanDerwerker.

The hope is that members of the community will volunteer to serve as ambassadors, educating parents in the community about the benefits of pre-K. There is no specific time commitment for ambassadors.

Brennan and VanDerwerker encouraged anyone who comes into contact with families who have young children to participate in the training, including church members, real estate agents and property managers. Head Start Director Dorothy Holmes said the approach of having ambassadors as peers to young families is important because many times, people are more likely to take the advice of someone they know.

“With a peer, you can trust them,” she said. “Most time, when you have a peer comment on something, it’s because they have experience themselves.”

VanDerwerker said a panel with experience in pre-K instruction will lead the training. The panel will include representatives from LCS; HumanKind, a nonprofit that offers early childhood education programs; the United Way of Central Virginia, which provides funding to early childhood education programs; Head Start, a program that provides early childhood education to low-income children and private pre-Ks.

During the training, pre-K ambassadors will learn about the benefits of pre-K education, the various pre-K options in Lynchburg and who to contact for information about each program.

“Then we also want them to understand that there are subsidies available through different organizations, such as the Department of Social Services, for some children who qualify,” VanDerwerker said. “The work of a pre-K ambassador, basically it’s to connect families to the people they need to talk to.”

Once they complete the training, ambassadors will receive buttons that say “Ask me about pre-K.” The buttons, flyers and refreshments for the training were funded by a Poverty to Progress grant from the city. The committee is spending about $380 of a $4,903 grant from the city on the training. The remaining funds will be spent on birth certificates for school registration, summer learning activities for children and quality assessments and measures for local pre-K programs.

“We are very excited about the possibility of expanding the awareness of our community about pre-K and definitely the benefits because it’s very clear that children who participate in structured pre-K activities whether at home or in a classroom setting can have long term benefits,” VanDerwerker said.

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