NORFOLK, Neb. – Students in the Early Childhood Education program at Northeast Community College are doing more than learning this semester, they are giving back to the community.
Service projects are an important component to the program’s students. Although meetings of the program’s club are held through Zoom this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic, members still reach out to children to make their lives better and to help prepare them for school and their lives.
One of the most recent club projects was a diaper drive for the Sixpence program, which saw Northeast students, faculty, and staff donate any size and brand of diaper to assist families who may be struggling through the pandemic.
“Diapers can be expensive, so it is nice to help out parents and new parents by having others assist by purchasing these diapers. It's a small act, but it can make a big difference,” said Makayla Forsberg, an Early Childhood Education major from Laurel.
The Sixpence program is designed to provide parents and soon-to-be parents the opportunity to bond and develop strong relationships with their children/unborn children, learn to be their child's first teacher, promote learning within the home environment, and encourage and support curiosity within the child's play. Sixpence serves as a resource of support throughout a child's first years. It also promotes family strength by recognizing individual values, encouraging teamwork, and creating links in the community.
Early Childhood Education Instructor and Club Adviser Lisa Guenther said she and club members appreciate all of those who donated diapers or provided a monetary donation to the project. She said the goal of the Sixpence program is the same as for club members and families - to give children the best possible start in life.
“Ninety percent of a person’s brain develops between birth and age five. These are critical years for growth, development, health, and learning for a person’s life,” she said.
Early Childhood Education Club members also understand the importance of reading aloud to children beginning at birth. Guenther said it is the number one thing a person can do to prepare a child for school and life.
“Reading aloud to a child grows vocabulary, comprehension, and critical thinking. Another service project of the club is to read aloud and share children’s literature with children. Members report the child/children they read to, what book or books they shared, and the reactions from the children.”
Student Jessica Stark, of Plainview, read to her brother and her three-year-old cousin, who is in Head Start.
“Pete the Cat made my brother laugh,” Stark said.
Hannah Farmer, of Bruno, shared Llama Llama Holiday Drama with two children.
“They were excited and happy that I was reading to them and they were eager to help me read to them,” Farmer said.
In addition, Early Childhood Education Club members are involved in Jumpstart’s Read for the Record. The initiative brings together millions of children and adults around the world each year to read the same book on the same day to raise awareness about the critical importance of early literacy and access to high-quality books. This year’s Read for the Record will take place on Oct. 29.
Club members will Zoom in for a reading of this year's book, Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, by Meg Medina. The book will then be available to students to read aloud to children in their practicum sites, work sites, and to family and neighbors.
Guenther is pleased the Early Childhood Education Club is helping to make a difference in children’s lives across Northeast Community College’s 20-county service area.
“Small acts like a Diaper Drive, reading aloud to a child, and being involved in the worldwide Jumpstart Read for the Record are examples of service projects that act as models for club members to make a difference in children's lives for their future.”
Northeast Community College Early Childhood Education Club members Taylor Steager, Surprise, (left), Makayla Forsberg, Laurel, and Carmen Buoy, Norfolk, prepare to deliver diapers to Sixpence, a program that serves as a resource of support throughout a child's first years. The diapers were collected during a drive at the College recently; one of several service projects that members of the Northeast Early Childhood Education Club have undertaken during the fall semester.