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INDIANAPOLIS — Many Hoosier kids are learning from home right now or doing some sort of hybrid approach to the fall semester.
For many parents, there is a fear that their child may get left behind in learning. For many younger kids, this is their first experience of school and so it is critical they get off on the right foot. That's why Waterford.org is helping hundreds of Hoosier families get their kids ready for Kindergarten with a free program called Waterford UPSTART.
LEARN MORE | Waterford UPSTART
Every year, millions of children walk into their first day of school unprepared to learn, and at no fault of their own. Those who start behind tend to fall further and further behind over the years, which can lead to dropping out, trouble with the law, and generational poverty.
Waterford UPSTART teaches children the skills they need to be prepared for kindergarten, and it's available at no cost to the families.
Low-income or affluent, rural or urban, children who get their academic start with Waterford UPSTART are provided with the learning tools online, the internet access, and device at no cost to families who qualify.
This past summer, 625 Hoosier households from all corners of the state took part in this summer learning program.
"Once COVID hit, our organization realized that we had a unique ability to help families that were going to be stuck inside their homes with their kids for an extended period of time," Kim Fischer, director of public relations for Waterford.org., said. "And so we worked with some of our philanthropic partners who gave us the funding to be able to reach children in 9 different states."
Fischer says they were surprised by how many families did not have access to internet in their home and so the nonprofit had to help fewer families than they originally planned to, due to the bigger needs of the families at this time.
"What ended up happening is we had far more families that needed technology in the home," Fischer said. "I think that's one of the things that COVID pointed out is the fact that we have a massive technology gap in this country and I think it's something that school districts have known but it's never been anything that's needed to be addressed because you know all the work was being done inside the school."
The Gurrola family in Indianapolis took part in the UPSTART program this summer. David's son, Elias, is now a Kindergarten student in Pike Township Schools.
"Even using the computer he has picked up," Gurrola said. "He's got the hand and eye coordination to move the mouse and pointer across the screen."
Gurrola said those computer skills came in handy when Elias had to start the year off virtually.
"He's learning how to read through the program because it's simple step-by-step and every day it builds upon the last day," Gurrola said. "Education is the key to a lot of success and I want him to have a steady foundation where he can build upon each day."
The summer program included 15 minutes of reading and 15 minutes of math each day for 5 days a week online.
This fall, Waterford.org is taking applications from families across the state. You must qualify for assistance, but they encourage you to apply and they can take your information and see if you qualify.
This is their third fall to offer this learning program in Indiana.