YMCA of Greater Omaha
Ready in 5
Ready in 5 is a home-based school readiness program for refugee preschoolers and their parents. The program strives to prepare children for kindergarten socially and academically while also empowering parents to support their children's learning at home and understand the American education system.
Ready in 5 was created as a United Way initiative in 2008 to help fill the gap in early childhood services for refugees. It is a collaboration between the YMCA of Greater Omaha and Heartland Family Service. We hold weekly hour long groups attended by children and a parent or other adult, primarily in apartments with high concentrations of refugee families. One of the families offers to host each week in their living room. The group is co-taught by a staff member and cultural ambassador who speaks the primary language of the group. The target age group is children 3 to 5 although younger siblings frequently attend and participate when possible. The program served over 500 children and parents last year and currently runs 17 weekly groups.
Field trips are scheduled quarterly to places like the zoo, children's museum, and pumpkin patch. Busses pick up families at the group location. Staff also assist families each year with preschool and kindergarten applications and provide casework as necessary to support the families' needs. We also screen for special needs and facilitate the referral and evaluation process with Omaha Public Schools.
We have created our own lesson plans based on the teaching environment and needs of the children. Each lesson follow a different theme and includes circle time, a book, several activities facilitated by both teacher and parents, and a craft.
The primary populations served in the program include ethnic groups from Burma and Bhutanese. We also serve smaller numbers of Congolese and Syrians and continue to adjust our programming based on newly arriving populations. Cultural ambassadors work part-time with the program and speak Karen, Burmese, Karenni, Nepali, Swahili, Kirundi, and Kinyarwanda.
The majority of funding is provided by United Way. The YMCA also received funding from the Omaha Community Foundation, Kiwanis Club and the YMCA Strong Communities Campaign while Heartland Family Service is supported by Lincoln Financial Foundation and private donors.
Each agency has a program director and part-time coordinator as well as part-time cultural ambassadors. Training is primarily done by directors and staff also attend community trainings when available.
Ready in 5 staff collaborated with early childhood experts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and created their own assessments to fit program needs. All the registered children(ages 3 and up) are assessed quarterly for social skills. Children entering kindergarten the following year are also assessed academically.
During the 2016 United Way fiscal year:
1) 212 out of 246 children assessed (86.2%) demonstrated improvement on knowledge of basic colors, letters, and numbers and language skills.
2) 76 of 84 children assessed (90.5%) demonstrated improved social skills.
3) 58 of 62 children assessed (93.5%) demonstrated academic skills required for kindergarten
The program began in 2008 and is still operating as of 2017.