New initiative offers free Pre-K, college scholarships for Columbia families

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COLUMBIA, Pa. (WHTM) — CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health announced its new Every Child, Every Opportunity initiative Tuesday. The program helps some of the youngest and oldest students in Columbia get access to quality education.

The first part of the program gives 20 families free full-time Pre-K at whichever school they want.

There are no income requirements.

The hope is that parents are freed of the financial burden of child care and able to pursue their own careers, secure financial success, and establish roots in Columbia.

While there is that limit on participants now, the goal is to eventually offer every child in the borough free Pre-K.

Millersville Associate Professor of Early Childhood Special Education Dr. Deborah Tamakloe says there is overwhelming research that children who go to Pre-K have a clearer pathway to success in schools, careers, and life.

“In these unsettling times, this initiative is very timely,” said Dr. Tamakloe. “It’s relevant and it’s going to level the playing field for families who live in poverty.”

The second part of this initiative involves five $10,000 Columbia Future Scholarships.

Those are for anyone who has attended Columbia Public School District from Kindergarten through 12th Grade and plans on continuing their education at a college or trade school.

“It’s not a merit-based scholarship,” said CHI President Phil Goropoulos. “It’s about celebrating your work here in Columbia and hopefully giving you the tools to be able to come back to the community with new skills and resources for us to be able to build a bright future together.”

CHI St. Joseph Children’s Health will accept applications for the Pre-K funding in September, and for scholarships, once the current senior class graduates in June of 2021.

Every Child, Every Opportunity is funded by a more than $450,000 grant from CommonSpirit Health and Catholic Health Initiatives.

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