Girls Inc. in Nashua receives $3,000 United Way grant for Early Learning Center

NASHUA – The United Way of Greater Nashua has awarded $3,000 in one-year funding to Girls Incorporated of New Hampshire for its Early Learning Center at the Nashua facility on Burke Street. UWGN also serves the Souhegan Valley.

The Early Learning Center provides an affordable, year-round preschool program with extended hours to serve working families with incomes at or below poverty level. Currently, 18 of the center’s 20 slots are held by children from low-income households, subsidized in part by United Way.

The center prepares preschoolers for kindergarten and offers a safe, affordable way for parents to provide the same opportunities for their children as those in higher income brackets.

In presenting its program proposal to United Way community investment volunteers, Girls Inc. cited Nashua teacher surveys that revealed 39 percent of the 789 kindergarten students that year were not ready for kindergarten.

Girls Inc. quoted Marcia Bagley, preschool director for the Nashua School District, as noting, “At Amherst Street School, nearly three-quarters of incoming kindergarten students were not adequately prepared, based on teacher feedback.”

Birch Hill and Broad Street elementary schools showed 38 and 21 percent respectively of students not ready for school, and the lowest figure for any school was 8 percent, at Charlotte Avenue Elementary, the proposal said.

“Research indicates that earlier intervention is better for children’s language development, independence skills and social skills,” Girls Inc. CEO Cathy Duffy Cullity said. “In New Hampshire, kindergarten teachers have to work on these things with children who could have been developing these skills if they had been enrolled in preschool.”

The center’s theme-based curriculum ties into the children’s interests. Every theme includes math, literacy, science, creative arts, and physical and social skills.

United Way community investment volunteers gave the Early Learning Center high marks for its integration with other Girls Inc. programs that receive United Way funding: the Burke Street Cafe, which provides a hot, nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner to each child attending the center, and the Girls Center after-school program, in which girls participating in the preschool can continue after school once they enter elementary school.

“By investing in the Burke Street Early Learning Center, United Way of Greater Nashua will be helping young children from low-income families develop academically, socially and physically,” said Rod Hansen, chairman of the 2014-15 UWGN community investment process.

The Burke Street Early Learning Center is one of six programs UWGN approved for one-year funding during the second year of its three-year investment cycle. Funding for another 22 programs was renewed automatically.

United Way-funded programs are expected to serve about 9,200 Greater Nashua residents this year. To view funded programs, visit unitedwaynashua.org/community and select the impact area. For more information about needs and investments specific to a community in UWGN’s service area, select the region: Hudson-Litchfield, Merrimack, Nashua or Souhegan Valley.