United Way of Southwest Virginia Partners with Ballad Health to Provide Kinder Camps
April 19, 2021
Abingdon, VA (April 14, 2021) – Research shows that in some areas of Southwest Virginia, approximately 45% of children are not prepared to enter kindergarten, and nearly half of Southwest Virginia students are lacking in the areas of literacy, math, social skills, and social regulation. “Virginia’s littlest learners are among the most affected by the pandemic, but they are strong, they are resilient, and with access to quality early learning opportunities, we know they can thrive in school and beyond,” said First Lady Pamela Northam.
With support from Ballad Health, United Way of Southwest Virginia will provide funding and coordinated support for up to 30 Kinder Camps classrooms. In order to provide a jump start for kindergarten students, Kinder Camps will be offered in localities served by Ballad, which includes City of Bristol, Buchanan County, Dickenson County, Grayson County, Lee County, City of Norton, Russell County, Scott County, Smyth County, Tazewell County, Washington County, Wise County, and Wythe County.
“Four hundred fifty Southwest Virginia families could be served through this project. When you think about the ripple effects of that, this project has the potential to change the trajectory of hundreds of lives of children in Southwest Virginia,” said Travis Staton, President, and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia.
“The students who attend kinder camps will have a chance to acclimate to the school environment, learn important social emotional skills, connect with licensed teachers, and engage in hands-on learning—all skills that will benefit them from kindergarten to graduation,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Kinder camps are an important stop gap measure as Virginia recovers from the pandemic, and we are grateful for Ballad Health and United Way’s commitment to serving young students in this innovative way.”
“These types of partnerships are exactly what helps keep our communities and children safe and healthy,” said Secretary of Health and Human Resources Daniel Carey, MD, MHCM. “Kinder Camps works alongside other Childhood Success initiatives at United Way of Southwest Virginia with support from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to increase access to developmental screenings and build a continuum of high-quality developmental and behavioral health care. Screenings and intervention services help to reduce barriers and gaps and promote equity for all young children and their families.”
The investment from Ballad Health Foundation is among the first major investments from the STRONG Accountable Care Community. STRONG is the guiding committee developing the strategic actions to improve the overall population health of the region in accordance with the cooperative agreement the Commonwealth of Virginia is requiring as part of the merger agreements made between legacy Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System. “We want to make sure our children are cared for whether that’s at the hospital, in their homes, or at school. Ballad Health is committed to the evidence-based solutions needed to improve educational outcomes for our youngest citizens. Grant-funded partnerships, such as Kinder Camps, allow Ballad Health to work with organizations that are a part of the STRONG Accountable Care Community and help empower their work. Investments early in life have a high return by ensuring our students enter kindergarten ready to learn and programs like Kinder Camps help reduce the risk that children fall behind in later grades,” said Alan Levine, Executive Chairman, President, and CEO of Ballad Health.
“These Kinder Camps will be a vital part of the resilience of our region’s youngest citizens,” said Travis Staton, President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia, “Participation in a Kinder Camp will set up our Southwest Virginia students for success and ensure they are on track to excel in school for years to come.”
“If you would like to learn more about enrolling your children in Kinder Camps to provide them with a high-quality classroom experience designed to get them ready for an enhanced learning experience, please call your local school board office,” said Susan Patrick, Ph.D. Director of Childhood Success, United Way of Southwest Virginia.