Sheridan's Center for a Vital Community is hosting a symposium this week to discuss what communities can do to set children on a path toward success. The event is titled "Building Communities where Children and Families Thrive", and is focused on the science of childhood development and the practices that support lifelong wellbeing.
Research has shown that the first three years of a child's life have a major impact on the ability to learn. A series of studies by Nobel-prize winning economist James Heckman found that taking action in early childhood is the most effective way to invest in a community. In Wyoming, it has been difficult to find funding for such efforts.
Michelle Sullivan, who is coordinating the symposium, says four agencies and several organizations oversee pre-kindergarten education in this state, which adds to funding challenges. Wyoming has no state-funded preschool program, but the state has approved innovation grants to go toward programs that are making a difference.
"I think we have our work cut out for us as a state to really acknowledge the return on investment that can be reaped by investing early," Sullivan said.
Organizers hope that the symposium will empower family members and communities to support young children. The event is Thursday and Friday in the Whitney Academic Center Atrium at Sheridan College.