By Robby Byrd

The Amory Advertiser

AMORY – The Gilmore Foundation has launched a new program called the Gilmore Early Learning Initiative with the lofty goal of improving early childhood education in Monroe County and making it the best in the United States.

“This program is not about a segment of the population,” said Danny Spreitler, the foundation’s executive director. “It’s about addressing the needs of every child in Monroe County.”

The Gilmore Foundation is a charitable foundation created from the sale of the Gilmore Memorial Hospital. GELI consist of multiple layers of programs to begin at birth and follow the child to age 5 when the student enters a school system.

Beginning Jan. 1, every child born in Monroe County will receive its first library book from the Gilmore Foundation, which will be delivered to the infants’ homes. A resource center also will be created for families to access educational information and materials.

As part of GELI, the Gilmore Foundation is partnering with Mississippi State University Early Childhood Institute and its director Cathy Grace and the Excel by Five Community Initiative. Their goal is to strengthen the day cares and preschools in Monroe County by providing training and certification opportunities.

Excel by Five Director Annjo Lemons said the program certifies a community as child friendly, much like the AARP certifies a city as a retirement community.

“Excel by Five identifies the gaps in community resources as they apply to early childhood education,” Lemons explained.

According to Lemons, for every $1 spent on pre-kindergarten education programs, $7 returns on investment for a city.

Excel by Five is working with pilot programs in West Point, Cleveland, Petal and Pascagoula, but the GELI will be its first county-wide initative.

Grace praised the early childhood program plans.

“A true legacy is about to be given to this community,” she said.

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