PNC foundation to invest $2.1 million in preschool science, arts programs for DPS

The PNC Foundation today announced a $2.1 million investment with the Detroit Public Schools Foundation, the Detroit Science Center and the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts to establish new programs in science and the arts for underserved preschool children in the Detroit Public Schools.

The investment is part of the local launch of PNC Grow Up Great, a 10-year, $100 million initiative to improve early childhood education.

Starting in June, the Detroit Public Schools will offer these two disciplines for the first time ever in a pilot summer program that will continue into the school year. In addition, Kristen McDonald, senior program manager with the Skillman Foundation, has been named to the Grow Up Great Advisory Council.

PNC’s commitment leverages the experience of the Detroit Science Center and the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts to create new programs in preschool teacher training, add activities to enhance the arts and sciences curriculum of the Detroit Public Schools pre-k program and engage parents in their children’s learning experiences. Following completion of the pilot, the program will continue for an additional two school years and will include an independent evaluation of its success.

“Establishing a foundation in basic skills during a child’s early years is vital to competing in an economy increasingly based on knowledge and ability,” said James E. Rohr, chairman and chief executive officer of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., which is the principal source of funding for the PNC Foundation. “The investment we make now in the children of Detroit lays the groundwork for their future and that of this region.”

Rohr made the announcement at Emerson Elementary School with David Boyle, PNC regional president for Michigan and Northwest Ohio, where children, teachers and community leaders gathered to hear details of the grants and Grow Up Great. The new summer program and subsequent instruction will serve Emerson and six other city schools. The professional development aspect of the program will enhance teacher training for 12 teachers and 12 teaching assistants in the participating classrooms.

Approximately 200 children are expected to be served during the program’s one-year pilot. Based on an evaluation of the pilot, the program may be expanded to reach more children and teachers in years two and three.

“A quality preschool program has a major impact on the educational success of our students,” said Robert Bobb, emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools. “PNC Grow Up Great will greatly enhance our preschool programs and allow for immediate expansion of our successful summer school. Consistent studies have shown that investments in early childhood programs produce measureable, long-term educational benefits.”

The partner institutions will provide opportunities for PNC employees to volunteer in support of the programs, a hallmark of Grow Up Great. In addition, the grants will enable the institutions to collaborate on a series of professional development days as part of a robust teacher development curriculum.

Program features of each institution include:
– Detroit Public Schools Foundation will appoint a program coordinator to oversee teacher training and coordinate instruction with the partners. In addition, it will provide classroom materials and technology components.

– The Detroit Science Center will bring the resources of the center and the Detroit Children’s Museum into the classrooms, and host a series of student field trips and family visits. Instruction will emphasize exploration and hands-on activities.

– Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts will feature preschool students engaging in dramatic play. Family participation is encouraged. Instruction includes music awareness through the use of miniature and handmade instruments.

Each institution has committed to measure the results and share best practices. PNC’s second- and third-year funding is contingent upon successfully meeting the previous year’s objectives.
In joining the PNC Grow Up Great Advisory Council, McDonald brings strong credentials and a commitment to quality early childhood education. Composed of leading experts in the fields of education, medicine, government, academia, and philanthropy, the council provides guidance to Grow Up Great’s strategy and implementation.

Rosita, the furry, blue and Spanish-speaking Muppet from Sesame Street, joined in the celebration, and some of Emerson’s students entertained the crowd.

DPS received a gift of 3,200 “Happy, Healthy, Ready for School – Learning Is Everywhere” kits for each child in its pre-k program. The kits were created by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, for PNC Grow Up Great as part of a continuing partnership. The bilingual, multimedia kits include a magazine for parents and caregivers, a children’s activity book and cards, along with an original Sesame Street DVD that follows Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and their friends on a learning adventure through the everyday moments they have at home and on the go.

Learning is Everywhere materials are available at no charge at all PNC Bank branches, pncgrowupgreat.com, and sesameworkshop.org. The video is available free of charge on Learn Along with Sesame on iTunes (www.iTunes.com) and Amazon VOD.

Over the next few weeks, the PNC Foundation will announce additional grants throughout Michigan to enhance the educational experience of more preschool children. The grant recipients will also be supported by PNC employee volunteers.

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