Collaboration leads to Excel By 5 designation

Published 6:16 pm Thursday, May 2, 2019

Vicksburg and Warren County continue to make strides in early childhood learning by completing 25 certification requirements making Vicksburg the 35th Excel By 5 community in this state-led initiative.

In 2015, United Way of West Central Mississippi was approached from Excel By 5 at the same time the community was presented with the community’s average kindergarten readiness assessment result of 488. This score categorized Warren County kindergarten students as late emergent readers.

“United Way definitely knew we needed to bring the right people around the table to make a difference in the lives of children ages birth to 5 years old,” Michele Connelly, United Way of West Central Mississippi’s executive director, said. “It has been an honor to work with such a dedicated group of individuals who have been determined to provide sustainable change in our community.”

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The work that has been done by United Way, the Vicksburg-Warren School District, Merit Health River Region Medical Center, the city of Vicksburg, Vicksburg Family Development Services, the Vicksburg-Warren Public Library, local certified early childhood facilities and several other community leaders has resulted in a 33 point gain, making the 2018 kindergarten readiness assessment result a 521.

“It is inspiring to see a community come together to support our youngest children. Through the support of the Excel by Five partners, families have access to the resources they need to help their children grow and learn from. It has been a privilege to be a part of this project,” Connie West, Vicksburg Warren School District’s Gifted and Special Program coordinator, said.

Children who enter school without the fundamental knowledge, attributes and skills necessary for success are more likely to struggle throughout their education if appropriate interventions are not put in place along the way.

The Excel by 5 Coalition focuses their attention on community involvement, family and parent support, early care and education and health.


Community involvement

The community involvement focus area is designed to engage the broader community and bring “unexpected champions” to early childhood initiatives. Part of that work included popular community events.

The United Way’s Day of Action brought in 20 businesses to the YMCA gymnasium to offer interactive booths to over 500 children annually. Vicksburg Family Development’s community-wide Easter egg hunt is located at the Vicksburg Community Garden Park, where the United Way has installed a permanent born learning trail.

The Vicksburg Warren School District’s K-for The Day is devoted to bringing in pre-K-age students and their parents to tour kindergarten classrooms, meet teachers and board a school bus for the first time.

Merit Health River Region Medical Venter has allowed the Excel By 5 Coalition to provide each new parent with a book for their baby, along with a community resource guide.


Family and parent support

This portion of the certification process is designed to strengthen and support families and parents.

In collaboration with the Vicksburg-Warren Public Library, the Excel By 5 coalition provided a parent resource center, where parents and families have the opportunity to check out early childhood manipulatives and community parent resources.

The Community-Wide Baby Shower has grown with the support of Merit Health River Region Medical Center. This day offers parenting resources to new parents and expectant mothers in our community.


Early care and education

The early care and education focus area stresses the importance of improving the availability of professional development for early care facilities in our community.

The Vicksburg-Warren School District has spearheaded multiple, free early childhood symposiums that offer contact hours to gain or maintain a facilities certification.



It is crucial all children have access to reputable programs that can provide necessary early detection and intervention for defined health issues.

United Way collaborates with the Salvation Army to offer a community health fair with needed health screenings for school age children.