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Ohio conference focuses on early education

March 13, 2018
Jessica Holbrook
Canton Repository

Educators, experts and community leaders met Friday to focus on Stark County’s youngest residents.

The Early Childhood Advantage: A Symposium on School Readiness, held at the Kent State University at Stark campus, is the first conference of its kind. It was organized by the Great Start for Great Futures symposium planning committee and several area organizations, including the Early Childhood Resource Center, the Stark County District Library and the Stark Education Partnership.

The intent was to bring together “really all the folks who touch the lives of children… as well as those who are visionaries” to talk about the importance of early childhood education, its impact on brain development and the importance of investing in young children, said Angela Moses, director of early care and education services at the Early Childhood Resource Center.

About 500 people attended, far more than organizers anticipated.

The daylong event included sessions on family engagement, literacy, empathy and resilience.

Organizers are hoping to spark a conversation and help business, nonprofit and community leaders see the bigger picture of early education and how they can play a role, said Kristine Filhour, Early Childhood Resource Center regional coordinator.

It’s vital to invest in children early as major brain development happens in the first three years, Filhour said.

What happens in those years impacts a person’s approach to education, their success in school and their social and emotional development, she said.

The event was sponsored by PNC as part of its Grow up Great initiative, which focuses on children from birth to age 5.

Early childhood education is the most underfunded segment of the educational pipeline, said Jennifer Fox of PNC.

Research shows that quality early childhood experiences lead to kids doing better in school, higher graduation rates and a stronger workforce, Fox said. “It’s an economic driver in our community.”