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POWER Bags initiative designed to build community one child at a time

The Education Partnership of the Permian Basin formed two years ago with the sole purpose of improving the quality of education for West Texas from cradle to career. At a press conference on December 11, leaders of the group sat beside other community partners and announced a new project to empower parents to effectively be their child’s first teachers.  

The Education Partnership's work is based on the collective impact model, meaning businesses and organizations come together to address large social challenges. For example, the numbers show 65% of Ector County ISD kindergartners are not ready to start school. The new POWER Bag initiative, which is an idea the group saw first in Pensacola, Florida, is designed to take on that kindergarten-readiness challenge.

“When you think about that monumental task,” said Director of the Education Partnership Adrian Vega, “the reality is there is no one entity that can approach that by themselves.”

With support from a number of sponsors beginning with Medical Center Health System and Odessa Regional Medical Center, the Education Partnership developed the POWER Bag, which will be given to the family of every newborn baby in Ector County beginning on January 1. The POWER Bag includes information about the importance of reading, child milestone books, a book to read to the child, a bib and a rattle. Bags will be available in English and Spanish.

Dr. Sara Amiri, Medical Director of Community Engagement for Odessa Regional Medical Center, said research shows 80% of a child’s brain is formed during the first three years of life.  The POWER Bag provides parents with knowledge and resources on the importance of daily reading, talking, singing and playing with their baby. “So they understand what they can do for early brain development that helps with language, social and emotional growth,” added Dr. Amiri.

“At Medical Center alone we send home more than 200 moms with their newborns every month. This is just one more layer of caring for them, to put something so important into their hands,” said Christin Abbott-Timmons, Chief Nursing Officer at Medical Center Health System. “And it nurtures the relationship between parents and their child.”

 “From the moment of their birth their families will be made aware of the research,” said Lorraine Perryman, Board President of the Education Partnership. “They will be given tools on how they can begin to interact effectively with their children, to build their brain power, to build their language skills and make them kindergarten ready.”

The school district sees and feels the impact of struggling students in many ways. One of which is the need to hire more speech and language pathologists who help kids learn to speak and communicate.

ECISD Superintendent of Schools Dr. Scott Muri summed up the urgency for parents to engage their kids in productive play. “If we don’t learn how to effectively communicate our thoughts and our ideas, to listen and understand then it makes the rest of our academic journey and our journey through life more challenging. We must actively engage our children during the early years of brain development in order to better prepare them for success in school and, ultimately, life.” 

The next step in the POWER Bag rollout is bringing together local pediatricians, health clinics, and child care centers to be part of the network; promoting the same message and delivering age-appropriate books and resources. Ector County ISD plans to expand the reach by adding full-day Pre-kindergarten for all eligible students in August 2020.

“We are excited to join this effort to take care of our children from the moment they arrive in our community until the moment they begin kindergarten,” said Dr. Muri. “We owe it to our kids.”

 

Contents of a POWER Bag: books, brochures, articles about reading aloud to kids.