Vicksburg close to getting Excel by 5 certification

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vicksburg and Warren County are close to being certified an Excel by 5 community.

Speaking at the Vicksburg Kiwanis Club meeting Tuesday, members of the Excel by 5 committee discussed the progress Vicksburg is making toward receiving the certification and what programs are available for pre-kindergarten age children and their parents.

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Excel by 5 is a statewide certification process that says a community is adequately preparing young children to succeed once they enter kindergarten. Communities must meet criteria in community involvement, family and parent support, early care and education and health to earn the certification.

Michele Connelly, the executive director of the United Way of West Central Mississippi, said Vicksburg began the process in 2015 and is one check away from being certified.

“This is not a program,” Connelly said. “It is an opportunity to bring the community together to help the children ages 0 to 5 to thrive. This is the most important time during their lives in order to soak up as much as they can to be successful as they move through not just their educational journey, but their journey through life.”

The Excel by 5 committee has brought together representatives from the United Way, Merit Health River Region, Vicksburg Warren School District, Vicksburg Family Development Services and more to make sure parents and children are both receiving the resources they need to be successful.

“It is these first years of life that lay the foundation for future success,” Kay Lee, the director of Vicksburg Family Development Services, said. “If we don’t do what we need to be doing in that time, then we are playing make-up for the rest of that child’s life.”

Connelly said Excel by 5 hasn’t necessarily led to the creation of new programs in Vicksburg, but has brought together interested parties to make sure the existing programs are having the biggest impact possible. Programs related to Excel by 5 include an annual community baby shower where expecting parents can receive necessary resources, the new Born Learning Trails at the Community Garden and a back to school health fair hosted at the Salvation Army.

Connelly said new parents are now also sent home from River Region with a free book and parenting resources and Lee announced Tuesday that a parent resource area will soon be opening at the local library where parents can check out educational toys, book and resources.

“Nothing was created because of Excel by 5,” Connelly said. “It allowed us to bring the right people to the table so when we talk about the Day of Action, the school district is involved, the hospital is involved, the United Way is involved. It just brings more people to the table.”

The Vicksburg Warren School District is also working to make sure day care and early childhood teachers in the community are given the necessary resources to prepare their students for kindergarten.

“We want to make sure our community knows exactly what is offered in our community,” Connie West, VWSD’s gifted coordinator, said. “We want to make sure we provide as much support and quality professional development to not just teachers in our school district, but also teachers who teach early childhood. We want to make sure not just teachers who work for the school district, but every single teacher of every child 0 to 5 has access to the same type professional development.”

For more information about Excel by 5 visit