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Ready by 21

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, December 22, 2011

by Jessica Brophy

“Ready by 21” IDs assets, goals for healthy growth of children to adulthood

When it comes to raising and educating area children into healthy and prepared adults, “no single group or program can be solely responsible,” said Healthy Peninsula director Amy Vaughn. Parents, schools, community members and organizations all need to “work together toward a common vision,” continued Vaughn at a Ready by 21 meeting on Thursday, December 1.

Vaughn explained that Ready by 21’s aim is to develop that common vision and set of shared goals with measurable outcomes. Ready by 21 grew out of a Healthy Peninsula work group on substance abuse.

More than 40 parents, teachers, administration and students discussed and brainstormed assets and goals for the different age groups, birth to adulthood.

“It always amazes me how many people support our schools and children,” said Becca Emerson, who is chairman of the group’s steering committee.

Those present at the meeting broke into five small groups: early childhood, birth-age 5; foundations, grades K-3; building blocks, grades 4-6; adolescence, grades 7-10, and emerging adulthood, grade 11 to age 22.

The groups then reported about assets for each age group, and age-specific goals. For instance, in the youngest group, developmental screening for early problem detection was discussed, as well as communicating with new parents. For young children up to grade three, developing positive social skills through participation in groups was a key goal identified by those present. Pairing younger students with older students—a practice already in place at the elementary school—was also discussed.

For grades four through six, the work group noted the importance of developing a sense of the larger world through excursions, pen pals and reading about other cultures. Learning to talk to adults, and developing healthy exercise and eating habits were other goals.

For adolescents, the work group identified helping students have a positive self-image and continuing to broaden interest in the world beyond themselves.

The workgroup focusing on emerging adults identified physical fitness and social and financial literacy as well as reading skills. The group also discussed how students and families need to have advocates and mentors. “What can we do to bring families together?” asked parent Brenda Merritt.

Other business at the meeting included an update on the job shadow program, to be held on the first Monday in May this year. High school student Sarah Wilson reported on the “Real World 101” course, spearheaded by Ready by 21. The course brings in community members to teach real-life skills, including changing tires, cooking, caring for young children, how to buy a car, starting a business and more. The chili and cornbread available at the meeting was cooked by the high school students taking the course.

“We’re still looking for individuals to teach,” said Wilson. Teaching on a topic can take as little as one 45-minute session, or several, depending on the topic. “It’s not a huge time commitment,” Wilson continued.

Skip Greenlaw, a member of the group’s subcommittee on early childhood education, reported that the pre-K programs available on the Island seem to be reaching most children, but some children need help in terms of finances. Also, Greenlaw said, the group wants to develop a list of skills and goals for children coming into kindergarten from the various pre-K programs available on the Island and in Sedgwick.

“There’s a lot of things we can do for our kids before they start school,” said Greenlaw.

Ready by 21 will meet again in February. For more information about the group or to get involved, contact Amy Vaughn at Healthy Peninsula, 359-2441 or


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