There have been a lot of exciting additions to PIC programming over the past few months. We discuss some of the new initiatives and newly expanded programs below.
We are pleased to bring you this edition of the e-newsletter, which connects you with information relevant to early childhood development, education, and workforce development! Enjoy!
Pre-K Counts and Afterschool Enrichment Program Expansions at PIC
The Pre-K Counts and Afterschool Enrichment programs have been an integral part of PIC’s education initiatives for many years. We are pleased to announce that through additional funding, we are able to offer new locations for both of these programs—including sites in Beaver County.
PA Pre-K Counts Partnership
The Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) provides funding for PA Pre-K Counts classrooms throughout the state. These classrooms provide free, high-quality preschool to three- and four-year-olds in families at or below the 300% federal poverty level (this means that the program serves families at a slightly higher income bracket than does Head Start).
For many years, PIC has administered seven PA Pre-K Counts classrooms in Fayette County—including four in elementary schools and three through partnership with independent childcare providers. Additional PA Pre-K Counts funding is allowing us to expand PIC’s PA Pre-K Counts Partnership to 11 classrooms. New classrooms will open in early December. Locations include:
- Dunbar Boro Elementary School in Connellsville School District
- Southmoreland Elementary School in Southmoreland School District
- Blackhawk Intermediate School in Blackhawk School District
- Todd Lane Elementary School in Central Valley School District
PIC-administered PA Pre-K Counts classrooms offer a six-hour program that runs five days per week and corresponds with the school district calendar. Transportation is provided by the families.
Afterschool Enrichment Program
PIC’s Afterschool Enrichment Program provides students in participating schools with homework help, tutoring, academic enrichment activities, character building opportunities, health and nutrition education, and physical activity. Programming runs three hours a day after school, Monday through Thursday.
The program is funded through 21st Century Community Learning Center grants through the Pennsylvania Department of Education. PIC recently received a Cohort 7 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, which is enabling us to provide afterschool programming at the following schools:
- Aliquippa Elementary School for grades 4-6
- Aliquippa Junior/Senior High School for grades 7-8
- New Brighton Elementary School for grades 4-5
- New Brighton Area Middle School for grades 6-8
- Lafayette Middle School for grades 6-8
Community Innovation Zone: Helping Families in Masontown
MASONTOWN, Pa. – In early October, the Pennsylvania departments of Public Welfare and Education announced that nearly $2.7 million in Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zone (CIZ) grants had been awarded to 12 programs across the state. One of these grants will be directed toward Masontown borough in Fayette County.
Over the years, PIC has forged a strong partnership with Masontown Elementary and German-Masontown Public Library to deliver preschool, afterschool, and adult education programming to families in the Masontown area. Through this new three-year CIZ grant, we will be building upon existing collaborative efforts to increase school readiness and family engagement.
For the project, we will be calling on the strengths of each of the partners to meet the state’s established goals:
- Develop stronger relationships between early childhood programs and school districts to build birth-3rd grade alignment.
- Increase family supports and engagement.
- Strengthen the network and coordination of community organizations that serve children and families with young children.
Some of the core components of the program will include bringing literacy-building strategies used at the elementary school into Head Start and Pre-K Counts classrooms serving kids in the Masontown area; bringing family engagement strategies used in PIC’s preschool programs into the elementary school setting; and helping families to learn together through special events and activities.
We are looking forward to working with Masontown Elementary and German-Masontown Public Library on this project to strengthen families and help kids better succeed in school.
Behind the Scenes: Meet Doug McDonough
Doug McDonough joined PIC’s Workforce Development Division in April 2010, starting in the Pathways Out of Poverty Program, an initiative that connected individuals with training and job opportunities related to the “green” energy sector. Since then, he has moved into a position with the EARN program. He notes that a sense of humor is an essential part of the job, and his cheerful smile and wit help to add levity here at PIC. We sat down with him recently to talk about workforce development in Fayette County.
In April 2010, Doug McDonough made the leap from a career in selling radio ads and television commercials into workforce development. While it sounds like the two fields would be worlds apart, McDonough—who is now a job developer with PIC’s Employment, Advancement, and Retention Network (EARN) program in Fayette County—says that his background in sales is a great asset in his present job. It increased his comfort level for working with a wide variety of employers.
The EARN program helps individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) secure employment. All participants are referred to the program by the county. As a job developer, McDonough works with both clients and potential employers to find jobs that are a good fit for his clients.
When clients are referred to PIC’s EARN program, they go through an assessment process that looks at academic skills and work-related aptitudes and interests. These assessments help to identify barriers and potential career paths. But another important step in the process is sitting down with clients to get to know them. “It all begins with a conversation,” McDonough said. Through that conversation, he is able to learn about the kinds of barriers clients face—as well as what kind of work they’re interested in doing.
There are many obstacles that can stand in the way of employment—including lack of transportation, limited education, a criminal background, or a need for childcare. Part of McDonough’s job is helping individuals find ways to resolve these issues. This may include finding a job close to home for someone without access to a personal vehicle. Or it may include referring an individual without a high school diploma or equivalent to an adult education program for GED® test preparation classes. Finding a solution to such issues helps to clear the way to long-term employment.
Some individuals come into the program eager to find a job as quickly as possible, while there are others who seem more hesitant. McDonough said, though, that he has learned a lesson, “Never prejudge anybody coming in because people will surprise you—usually in a good way.” When matched with the right job, anyone has the potential to thrive, and he has seen it happen many times in the two years he’s been with the EARN program. He stresses that it’s important to match clients with jobs that are in line with their interests and skills. After all, if someone is happy in a job, they are more likely to stay, he noted, and retention—not just placement—is a goal of the program.
McDonough said that he never knows on any given day what he’ll end up doing. He may start out helping folks with resumes and showing them how to do a job search and end the day taking someone to a job interview. “That’s the best part of this job,” he said, “there is no typical day.”
He also finds his job rewarding, taking satisfaction from being “able to help someone improve their lives through employment.”
Learning the Rules of the Interview Process
Going on an interview is a lot like going to a fancy dinner—for both situations, a solid understanding of the ground rules can help you make a good first impression. Each month, PA CareerLink® Westmoreland in Youngwood provides workshops that help orient individuals to the rules of the interview process.
The 2 ½ hour interview workshop is led by Lorrie Douglass, a PIC account representative who works with employers in Westmoreland County to identify employment opportunities for jobseekers. She is also part of outreach efforts to the community, including the monthly interview workshops. She even recently conducted mock interviews with students at Jeannette High School and provided feedback to prepare them for the job search.
“I am pretty lively and interactive,” she told the group of job seekers who gathered for the October interview workshop in Youngwood. “I’m a big storyteller.” She integrates her own experience into the workshop, telling personal stories that individuals facing unemployment or a taxing job search can relate to.
Participants shared their own stories and experiences throughout the workshop, in addition to asking questions about what they needed to do in specific circumstances. As individuals talked about their own experiences, there was a growing sense that what one person had faced was not unique—that others understood.
“We’re just friends here,” Douglass told the group. “The reason we have this workshop is because we saw a huge, huge need.”
The interview workshop hits on a considerable amount of material, including the five different types of interviews—and how to prepare for each. Douglass sprinkles insights from her time as a human resources representative in the banking industry into the workshop, helping participants to understand what an interviewer is thinking.
“Human resource people understand that we have lives,” Douglass noted at one point when discussing how to handle a situation where a potential employer calls during a time when you’re not able to talk.
Along the way, Douglass also explains the myriad of other resources that participants can access through the Westmoreland PA CareerLink®, including mock interviews, other workshops (including one for resume writing), one-on-one counseling, and adult education classes.
“We can get you connected to the right people who are going to help you,” Douglass told the group.
The interview workshop is just one of several job seeker workshops offered at the Westmoreland PA CareerLink® each month. Different staff members lead each one. To find out more about these wonderful resources, please call 724-755-2330.
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Profile from Classroom: Inda Secleter
GREENSBURG, Pa. – Inda Secleter came to the United States from Indonesia looking for a better future. Her goal was to get work, save money, and eventually return home. However, while working in a factory in Charleroi, she met her now ex-husband, got married, and started a family. She eventually gave up her work at the factory because it was affecting her health—and to stay home to take care of her new baby daughter.
Eventually Secleter and her husband parted ways, leaving her as the single mother of two children. She began receiving cash assistance and, as a result, began working with PIC’s Employment, Advancement, and Retention Network (EARN). The workforce development staff also referred her to PIC’s Family Literacy Program.
“She fell into some rough times,” said Tracey Surma, Family Resource Instructor at PIC’s Greensburg office, “but she pulled herself up by her bootstraps.”
In May 2014, Secleter earned her associate’s degree in human services from Westmoreland County Community College. She said that she had originally been considering a career in cake decorating, but difficulties with cursive writing made that goal less realistic. She used a computer search to try to identify what kind of work might be a better fit. The answer: a career in human services. The direction sounded like a good one for her. “I like to help people,” she explained.
Secleter enjoys working with kids. With PIC’s help, she began to search for a job in the human services field working with kids. She also wanted something that would allow her to spend her evenings at home with her own children. PIC staff helped her to revise her resume and tackle the job search. She eventually secured a position as a teacher’s aide at a preschool in Greensburg.
“They really like helping,” Secleter said of PIC’s workforce development team, noting that they shared information about many job openings with her and followed up with employers when she had interviewed but not heard anything back.
In addition to working with EARN staff, Secleter spent time with Surma in PIC’s Greensburg Family Literacy Program. Surma helped her brush up on academic skills, particularly math, and over the summer, Secleter and her two children participated in Pathways to Poetry, an interactive, family-based literacy program funded through a grant from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
“She puts her kids first,” said Surma, going on to explain that Secleter made sure her children left with their books and talked about the books at home.
In the Family Literacy classroom, Secleter said that she had a chance to talk to other parents. “I met different people with different situations,” she explained. Through the experience, she learned about the struggles of single fathers, for example. “It’s hard for them,” she said. “It opened my eyes.”
In the Spotlight: Family Literacy
What is the Family Literacy Program?
PIC’s Family Literacy Program is funded through the Pennsylvania Department of Education and serves families in Fayette and Westmoreland counties. Our program is part of a larger network of Family Literacy Programs scattered throughout the state.
We serve families with children ages birth to eight, with a goal of helping families learn and grow together. Particular emphasis is placed on helping families support their child’s reading skills.
Family Literacy includes an adult education component that helps individuals with math, reading, and writing skills. But it also includes parenting skills training, early childhood components, and special interactive literacy activities for multiple generations.
What do participants get from the adult education component?
Adults receive academic support, boosting the math, reading, and writing skills they need to pass a high school equivalency (GED®) exam, enter post-secondary training, or move into the workforce.
There’s a lot of research that shows that children are affected by the education levels of the adults in their lives. By boosting the skills of adults, we are affecting the young children in that family by:
- Giving adults the academic skills they need to be able to move into better jobs.
- Increasing adults’ confidence in their own academic abilities.
- Guiding adults through the role they play in teaching their child.
Is the adult education part of Family Literacy like going back to school?
Our classroom is designed so that it can help individuals who have a wide variety of skill levels. It includes individualized attention as well as group discussion. Adults learn a lot from each other, in addition to receiving instruction from a certified teacher. The atmosphere is not like high school, and the learning is presented within the context of what individuals need to know for their everyday lives.
Materials used in class are centered around parenting skills. For example, texts used to improve reading comprehension skills may be about how to help a child get ready for kindergarten. Class discussion focuses on how academic skills apply in the family setting.
What are interactive literacy activities?
Interactive literacy activities are a chance for families to spend time—and learn—together. They are designed around a different book each month. Adults and children join in on fun activities related to that book. Families also learn about how to use everyday moments to promote literacy skills.
How can I learn more?
PIC’s Family Literacy Program has two locations:
- PIC Greensburg (219 Donohoe Road), which can be reached at 724-836-2600
- PIC Uniontown (480 Coolspring Street), which can be reached at 724-437-2590
In Beaver County, Family Literacy programming is provided through Adult Literacy Action at Penn State Beaver, which can be reached at 724-773-7810 (Denise Palguta).
Six Great Kindergarten Readiness Resources for Parents
Here at PIC, everything we do in our early childhood development programs builds toward something very important: kindergarten readiness.
When entering kindergarten, a child of course needs to be armed with some basic knowledge of letters and numbers. However, being ready to enter kindergarten includes so much more than being able to recite the alphabet. Skills like being able to wait or let someone else take a turn are also important. And children begin picking up these essential skills very early—from birth.
Getting kids ready for entry into kindergarten is a team effort! We are proud to be part of this team—and are glad to work with families to help them find ways to help preschoolers continue learning at home. We’ve unearthed some great online resources for parents that are centered around school readiness, and we just had to share!
1. A Parent’s Guide to Kindergarten Readiness
Aimed at parents of infants and toddlers, this site offers great information about signs of healthy development through various ages as well as ways to work with kids to promote language and literacy and other important skills. Click here to access the Parent’s Guide to Kindergarten Readiness resource.
2. Kindergarten Here I Come!
PA’s Promise for Children has some really great resources! The site is well worth exploring. One of the resources it offers is Kindergarten Here I Come!, which provides ideas for activities that you can do with your child each month throughout the year to promote the skills needed for kindergarten. Click here to access the Kindergarten Here I Come! resource.
3. Kindergarten Readiness Activity Cards
These printable cards include ideas for activities you can do with your child to promote kindergarten readiness. Each card includes a list of items you’ll need and detailed instructions—as well as the age group the activity is appropriate for. Domains covered include: Social and Emotional Development, Physical Development, Language and Literacy, Mathematical Thinking, Scientific Thinking, Social Studies, and The Arts. You can access the cards as PDFs online and print them out from home rather than buying a copy. Click here to access the Kindergarten Readiness Activity Cards resource.
4. Ready for Kindergarten?
This is an article from Scholastic that discusses some of the things that kindergarten teachers will be looking for, including the ability to listen and strong fine-motor skills. It is aimed a bit more toward that time of year when kids are getting close to entering kindergarten, but it’s a good article to take a peek at now so you’ll be ready! Click here to access the Ready for Kindergarten resource.
5. Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten?
Reading Rockets is another good site to get to know! This page provides a checklist of academic, social, and physical skills needed for kindergarten. It’s great to check this out now so you know some of the things that you’re working toward. Click here to access the Is My Child Ready for Kindergarten resource.
6. 44 Proven Ideas Parents Can Use to Help Their Children Do Better In School
This page focuses a bit more on things to do to promote learning once a child is in school—but it’s still a helpful resource even for parents with kids in preschool. While not everything is relevant to this younger age group, ideas such as “Help your child start a home library” and “Praise children constantly” are still very useful! Plus, knowing this list gives you some ideas for how to support your child’s learning once they’ve entered kindergarten! Click here to access the 44 Proven Ideas Parents Can Use resource.