Help for at-risk children

Scholarships can ease the financial burden on preschoolers' parents

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State funds are being used for scholarships that will allow approximately 60 at-risk children to attend four half-days of preschool in one of three programs in Craig.

"The whole program is based on finding those kids early and getting them into an education system and helping them make learning a priority," Moffat County Early Childhood Coordinator Sarah Hepworth said.

Applications are being accepted through June 15. The application includes a questionnaire about the factors that put a child at risk. Some of those are:

n Living with a single parent

n Being born to a teenage parent

n Being homeless

n Family history of health or medical problems

n Family history of drug, alcohol or substance abuse

n Recent family crisis

n Poor social skills

nGrowth or developmental delays

"The risk factors are identified as those things studies show that put children at risk for failure in the elementary school," Hepworth said. "Our goal is to find the most at-risk kids."

The criteria is weighted in the evaluation process so that the most at-risk children are awarded scholarships.

Hepworth expects there to be a waiting list. Last year there were 110 applications for 64 slots.

"We're on track for that again this year," she said. "Applications continue to come in every single day."

Applications are available at the Early Childhood Coalition, Sunrise Preschool, St. Mark's Preschool, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, Craig Mental Health, the Colorado Workforce Center or Social Services.

Scholarships are available for children who turn 3 or 4 years old on or before Aug. 31.

Children are required to participate in a developmental screenings for the application process.

Those who qualify for a scholarship can attend preschool at the Early Childhood Center, Sunrise Kids Preschool and Child Care, or St. Mark's Preschool.

Judi Whilden, owner of Sunrise Kids, urges parents to tour all three facilities to find the best fit for them and their child.

"It really depends on the parents' needs and their child's," she said. "All the programs here are good, but all are different."

Whilden said she's had parents sign up their child for preschool on the condition that their child qualifies for a scholarship -- showing her the value of the program.

"It's a great, great program," she said.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com

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