By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
The Community Foundation of Howard County has pledged a three-year, $120,000 grant to fund preschool education for needy students in the county.
This grant is in addition to $20,000 already donated by the foundation for preschool education. It will make a lasting impact on community children, said Kokomo-Center Schools Superintendent Jeff Hauswald.
“This amazing grant speaks to the importance of early childhood education, as well as the vital role our community foundation plays in improving the quality of life in Howard County,” Hauswald said.
Hilda Burns, foundation president, said the grant was made possible through the William S. and Susannah B. Hough Youth Fund. The Houghs had an interest in helping people obtain an education and in helping at-risk youth, Burns said.
“Knowing this need would continue beyond their lifetime, they left a generous legacy through the Community Foundation to continue supporting youth and students,” she said. “This community-wide preschool focus is at the heart of the Houghs’ concern, so this is a great match for the fund.”
The grant will allow an additional 40 students to attend preschool for free this year, Kokomo-Center School officials said. Over the next three years, at least 140 children will receive a free preschool education because of the gift.
Kokomo-Center’s director of special programs, Dawn McGrath, said one of the leading indicators for academic success is preschool.
“Research supports the positive impact of preschool on school-readiness and future academic achievement,” McGrath said. “The importance of investing early in the development of our little children is critical to the success of our community. A preschool experience greatly improves the likelihood of high school graduation.”
Hauswald said the community support is important.
“Kokomo-Center Schools continues to recognize the value of preschool education for our entire community, and we are happy to be working with the Community Foundation to expand the number of preschool spots available for free to qualified families in our community,” Hauswald said. “I am confident that this program will have a lifetime of benefits for our community as early childhood education has proven to reduce high school dropouts and decrease long-term societal costs.”