Elgin was recently named an Illinois Early Childhood Innovation Zone, a designation that is given to communities that will serve as laboratories for the state to test strategies to increase enrollment of children with very high needs in high quality early learning programs.
Funded through the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant, Innovation Zones work in partnership with the Illinois Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development and Illinois Action for Children. Innovation Zones work to strengthen cross-agency and cross-sector outcomes, build leadership capacity, and improve system effectiveness at community, regional, and state levels. An evaluation of the strategies and results from Innovation Zones can lead to statewide adoption of new methods.
Elgin’s Innovation Zone is led by the Elgin Partnership for Early Learning, a birth to five community collaborative focused on the healthy growth and optimal development of young children. EPEL is comprised of over 40 organizations and is governed by an executive committee of representatives from the following organizations: Advocate Sherman Hospital, Chamberlain Consultants Inc., Easter Seals of DuPage and Fox River Valley, Elgin Community College, Gail Borden Public Library, Grand Victoria Foundation, Kane County Health Department, One Hope United Elgin Child and Family Resource Center, School District U-46, United Way of Elgin and YWCA Elgin.
New Innovation Zones are working to enroll very high need 4-year-olds in Preschool Expansion classrooms, and to build a comprehensive community system with continuous services from prenatal to third grade. “The Innovation Zone work will guide us in new ways to build on existing partnerships.” says Casey Amayun, EPEL collaboration director, “it will also give all collaboration members a chance to work together to develop Elgin’s continuous pipeline for services.”
Local work is already underway; currently, EPEL is reviewing Elgin specific data to help determine where to start their work. After a solution is implemented, an evaluator will work with the Elgin team to determine if their strategy is making an impact on a small scale before rolling it out community wide. “Elgin’s selection as an Innovation Zone is a great step forward for our local collaboration,” said Lynne Bosley, President & CEO of United Way of Elgin. The main benefit, Lynne adds, will be “learning from and sharing with other early learning collaborations around the state, which will help us expand and strengthen our local efforts.”
If you would like to learn more about the Elgin Innovation Zone or EPEL work, please call 847-452-2457. United Way of Elgin is the fiscal sponsor for EPEL and provides monetary support along with Grand Victoria Foundation and U-46 School District.