United Way helps local daycare win a First Class State Award—learn about it here


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Woodland Park students enjoy painting time. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

United Way’s Success by 6 program facilitates a high-quality learning environment in local classrooms to prepare children for kindergarten. Woodland Park Christian Learning Center is one of them. Read on to learn more about the program and how Woodland Park Christian in Birmingham was awarded a new classroom through it.

About Success by 6

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United Way’s Success by 6 logo (United Way)

United Way’s Success by 6 program’s mission is to support children in their journey to kindergarten by focusing on cognitive skills and the child’s social and emotional development in education.

Success By 6 assists in providing high-quality early learning standards in Pre-K classrooms throughout Central Alabama with skilled School Readiness Specialists. Children in the classrooms are assessed so they can be ready for kindergarten, while teachers receive technical assistance and professional development training throughout the academic year. 

The program has helped with over 80 classrooms in these counties:

  • Blount
  • Chilton
  • Jefferson
  • Shelby
  • St. Clair
  • Walker

The program’s community efforts

Through community partnerships and volunteers, Success by 6 has been able to provide classrooms:

  • Free books to distribute each school year 
  • Family activities to encourage parental engagement and learning
  • School supplies
  • Medical referrals for children with health and development issues or disabilities 
  • An improved learning environment and positive role models for children

They also encourage health and wellness through efforts like: 

  • Connecting families to resources for developmental needs and screenings through Help Me Grow: Central Alabama
  • Promoting nutrition and physical activities 
  • Verifying quality standard implementation so care centers comply with childcare regulations

About First Class Pre-K

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Ms. Tammy, Pre-K teacher at Woodland Park leads reading time with the kids. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

The Alabama First Class Pre-K program is a part of the Office of School Readiness within Alabama’s Department of Early Childhood Education. The program encourages accountability, quality and student outcomes that follow students throughout their academic tenure. 

According to the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, research studies have shown that students who participated in excellent pre-kindergarten programs are less likely to: 

  • Be placed in special education
  • Repeat a grade 
  • Require remedial education

They are more likely to: 

  • Graduate from high school and attend college
  • Stay out of prison and off welfare
  • Get higher paying salaries as adults
  • Score higher on achievement tests

Classrooms are funded through a grant process in which sites must meet specific quality assurances and abide by operating guidelines to qualify for the program. It has grown from serving over 5,000 Alabama 4-year-olds in 2013 to over 22,000 in 2021. 

Two of United Way’s partner sites, Woodland Park Christian Learning Center and J. Alex Child Development Center were recently awarded new classrooms through the Alabama First Class Pre-K program. The program’s mission was to add 96 new classrooms in 35 counties this fall. 

By adding these new classrooms, access to the state’s pre-kindergarten program will expand to 26,658 children in the 2022-2023 school year. This will move Alabama closer to its goal of serving 70 percent of eligible four-year-old children.

Woodland Park Christian Learning Center 

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What a pretty butterfly painting. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

Woodland Park Christian Learning Center has been able to benefit from the Success by 6 programs. They work with kids between the ages of six weeks to five years old. Its mission is to provide quality education and to meet the needs of all early learners, and they have been doing so under the leadership of Executive Director Sonya Prater. 

Her passion for educating kids is evident through the monumental growth of Woodland Park Christian under her leadership. She gives thanks to United Way’s Success by 6 program for providing a supportive shoulder to lean on.

“When I have those tough moments, I have people that I can lean on. They have connected me with a group of other seasoned directors who can help out with issues that are going on.”

Sonya Prater, Executive Director, Woodland Park Christian Learning Center 

Through Success by 6, the school has been able to:

  • Become a licensed learning center
  • Conduct assessments to gauge the amount of growth in students  
  • Have personal coaches assist its teachers
  • Obtain school supplies through donations and community partners
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Ms. Tammy with one of her students. (Camille Womack / Bham Now)

Ms. Tammy, Woodland Park Christian’s Pre-K teacher, is grateful for the resources and community partners the program has afforded them. She has been able to receive books for students to further encourage their love for reading. Her goal every day is to prepare her kids for ” big school” by knowing their:

  • Alphabet
  • Address and parents’ names in case of emergency
  • Numbers
  • Students’ full names (in addition to nicknames)

The biggest addition the kids have enjoyed is the science center—through using items like magnifying glasses and magnets, their creative engineering minds have been ignited. Woodland Park is a wonderful example of the benefits reaped when being a part of United Way’s Success by 6 program.

Visit United Way’s website to learn more about Success by 6 and how you can get involved. 

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Camille Womack
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