Early childhood programs have become a focus for those trying to improve the educational and social development of preschoolers. Finding what works has also been a key component in the attempts to lessen the achievement gap and other challenges some students in underserved communities experience later in life.
PNC Bank has a national early education initiative, PNC Grow up Great, which also serves the people of St. Louis. The Listening Project talked with Maurice Quiroga, executive vice president of Asset Management at PNC Bank, about the significance of early childhood education.
- Children who have access to early childhood education are more likely to perform at higher levels in school.
- The first five years of a child’s life are critical in long-term development.
- At risk 5 year-old children who do not receive early childhood education may enter kindergarten with a vocabulary that is 18 months behind the average.
- PNC Bank helps families gain access to early childhood education resources.
Why do you feel access to quality early childhood education is important?
Research shows that children who participate in high-quality preschool programs are far more likely to experience greater educational achievements, strive toward higher vocational aspirations and contribute to society later in life.
How do you feel the lack of early childhood educational services impacts lives?
PNC emphasizes the importance of the first five years of life, which research has shown are critical to long-term achievement. The program helps families, educators and community partners provide innovative opportunities that enhance learning and development in a child’s early years. Research shows that children who receive a high quality early childhood education are less likely to repeat grades and have lower levels of incarceration and teenage pregnancy. In addition, at-risk 5-year-old children without the benefit of early education may enter kindergarten with the vocabulary of an average 3 1/2 year-old. They may start school with an 18-month disadvantage, and the gap widens instead of narrowing as they move into first, second and third grades. Over the long-term, this can result in a lack of educational achievement that makes them less prepared for the demands of an economy that is increasingly technology and skills-based.
Tell us about PNC’s Grow Up Great initiative, and how it provides families access to better early childhood education services.
PNC has partnerships with nationally renowned preschool organizations like Sesame Workshop, The Fred Rogers Company and the National Head Start Association that help to reach millions of low- to moderate-income preschoolers nationwide with free and innovative multimedia resources. Many of our funded programs have a school-to-home component so that parents can continue their child's education outside the classroom. These programs may offer lessons, workbooks or even free visits to science and cultural centers funded in support of Grow Up Great.
What motivated PNC to create this program that promotes early childhood education?
In 2004, our former CEO, Jim Rohr, was interested in strengthening the impact of PNC’s philanthropy efforts and wanted to have a company-wide focus on one issue. As part of the effort to look for “the right issue," we asked our employees what they thought. They wanted to see more of a direct focus on children and education. We wanted to see where PNC could really make a difference, and the more we learned about early childhood education, the more we became convinced that this would be a good fit for us, not just for the social impact, but for the positive economic impact in our communities as well.
What is PNC doing in St. Louis to provide access to early childhood education?
Through PNC’s collaboration with Grace Hill Settlement House, more than 1,400 children have participated in early childhood education programs presented by four of St. Louis’ major cultural institutions: the Missouri Botanical Garden, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis Science Center and St. Louis Symphony. In addition, Maryville University is providing teacher development sessions and is conducting an evaluation of the program. The program has increased parent interactions with their children as part of the learning process, and early childhood education specialists were added to the staffs of the four cultural partner organizations.
Maurice Quiroga serves on the board of the Friends of St. Louis Public Radio.