His daycare and preschool hadn’t had a lot of supervision, Gattis said, and allowed her son, Melvin “Trey” Babbs, to wander from room to room.
“Every time I picked him up, he was in another classroom, or he was in (the director’s) office,” she said.
Gattis was worried this freedom would translate to him not being able to sit in one place and learn in kindergarten at Northside Elementary School. But then, Trey attended a three-week kindergarten readiness program from the Family Success Alliance.
“I was really, really worried he would not be able to settle in and not be in trouble and not be such a busybody, and that program, it worked,” Gattis said.
While Trey attended preschool, lots of kids in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools and Orange County Schools do not. Many also lack other resources that help them succeed in school.
Kids who enrolled in the Family Success Alliance kindergarten readiness program went from 9 percent to 67 percent proficiency in literacy, math and social skills by the end of the summer program.
Additionally, the Alliance seeks to address community needs throughout the school year by matching families with the resources they need.
Staffed by the Orange County Health Department and funded by the Orange County Social Justice Fund, the group began its work in August 2014. But its programs didn’t start until July, spokesperson Stacy Shelp said.
“In the first year, a lot of the work was information gathering,” Shelp said.
The group spent the first four months identifying pockets of poverty in Orange County and identifying their needs. This school year, the program is working with two pilot zones, in central Orange County and downtown Chapel Hill.
During the school year, the group’s “navigators” work directly with families from these zones to connect them with whatever resources they need. These include tutoring, parenting classes, literacy help and substance abuse counseling. The group partners with local organizations including the Orange County Literacy Council and the Carrboro organization Volunteers for Youth.
“I like to say that we’re navigators because we’re guides,” said Beatrice Parker, the program’s Zone 6 navigator.
“Parents with jobs and long hours might not be able to investigate the best after-school program themselves,” Parker said.
Gattis, who is studying to be a registered nurse, said she is working with the program now to find tutoring for Trey’s older brother and for Trey, who’s adapting well to kindergarten.
“I have had no complaints from the teachers — she said she has no idea who that child that I explained was,” Gattis said.