Column: Enhancing the pre-K experience

Ric DeVore

As an individual highly invested in early childhood education, I have witnessed the impact an instructionally rich learning environment can have on pre-K students’ development.

Research supports the view that high-quality preschool programs require resources and educational experiences that stimulate children’s curiosity and love of learning. A high-quality pre-K classroom — where teachers have access to materials and activities to support their interactions with children — helps to advance students’ cognitive, social and emotional skills.

To enhance early childhood education, PNC recently announced a $5 million initiative with online charity DonorsChoose.org. The new program focuses on the needs of pre-K teachers and helps them obtain additional classroom resources, such as books, art and school supplies, as well as field trips to child-friendly museums and other institutions.

In addition, the initiative opened Head Start centers around the country to DonorsChoose.org’s crowdfunding platform. The new resource will assist teachers who educate some of the most vulnerable students in our community.

Our youngest students are more likely to do well when they have access to quality materials. Recent research co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman shows that investing in quality early childhood programs can deliver a 13 percent per year return on investment — a net, long-term advantage of more than $700,000 for every disadvantaged child served. That benefit comes via reduced need for special education and grade repetition, higher wages, increased high school graduation rates and even reduced crime.

The DonorsChoose.org initiative is especially relevant given a recent study by the National Head Start Association. It showed that 88 percent of Head Start teachers spent up to $500 on school supplies out of their own pockets last year, and 10 percent spent more than $1,000. Many schools, especially those in low-income areas, just don’t have enough resources.

Now you can donate to help fulfill local pre-K teacher requests for resources that benefit public, public charter and Head Start students. PNC will match those project donations made within our service area, subject to some restrictions and a maximum dollar amount.

Our investment to help teachers build a foundation for high-quality learning was made as part of PNC Grow Up Great®, a $350 million, bilingual multi-year school readiness initiative for children from birth to age 5. Through the program, we help enrich early learning and raise awareness of its impact on our youngest students.

As invested members of this community, I ask you to become advocates for quality early education and look for ways to enhance the resources for early learning in your local schools. In addition, I urge you to visit DonorsChoose.org and consider supporting a project in your local community.

The nature of the classroom experience can make a significant difference in the lives of children. Let’s work together to ensure that every child receives a quality education and the opportunity to achieve to the best of his or her ability.

Ric DeVore is PNC Financial Services Group’s regional president for Detroit and southeast Michigan.