“They are ready!”
Operation Breakthrough is sending 102 pre-schoolers off to kindergarten! 2019 is OB’s largest pre-K graduation class and a very special class.
“This class is the last class to come into Operation Breakthrough when Sister Berta was still here leading us, it was the year that she retired, so all of the children here got a chance to see her every day, get her nurturing and see her so what an exciting time!” said Mary Esselman, CEO of Operation Breakthrough during the pre-K graduation ceremony.
Between 2015-2018, Operation Breakthrough sent more than 90% of its five-year-olds to school kindergarten-ready, based on the Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP). That's nearly twice the national rate for children living in poverty. Scores for 2019 aren’t available yet.
“A lot of times people think that readiness is about numbers and letters but it is about so much more,” explained Esselman.
Learning starts on day one in the infant classrooms and never stops. By the time children turn three, they’ve received more than 250 hours of preventative mental health programming. As preschoolers, it may look like they’re building with Legos or playing games but they’re actually learning letters, how to stick with a task, and so much more.
During the first five years at Operation Breakthrough, teachers look at 52 different things to make sure students are developing.
“It’s all different realms of education and personal skills,” said Morgan Mings, a pre-k teacher in the Blue Neighborhood. “We’re tracking them their whole time at Operation Breakthrough; this is where they’re at in this specific area, this is where should be for their age.”
Activities are individualized for each student and build on their learning, both academically and emotionally.
To emphasize consistency for the students, teachers stay with the same class for multiple years.
“We’ve been through every moment of their life with them,” said Mings. “We know exactly what they need, we can see by their behavior and their emotions right when they come in,”
Despite possible hardships at home, children at Operation Breakthrough meet opportunities with curiosity and potential.
“A lot of kids who grow up in poverty don’t get the experiences that a lot of other kids do,” said Mings. “They have so many different aspects where the kids are able to explore and create and do things that a lot of other kids aren’t able to do and I think it sparks their excitement and creativity and their imagination.”
LaShawnda Ramsey, a pre-K teacher in the Red Neighborhood, says everything in her classroom is planned and has a purpose. “We learn a lot through play. Maybe one week it’s the mail room in dramatic play and they’re learning what an envelope is, what letter does envelope start with, who works in a mail room, how does mail get shipped out and also a lot of different vocabulary.”
As the kids get ready to start kindergarten, their teachers know they will be successful in school and life thanks to the foundation started at Operation Breakthrough.
“Some of them say they want to be a DJ, some of them want to be singers, one of the kids wants to be a funeral director, I’m not sure if they know what that means exactly but a few of them want to do that,” said Ramsey. “I see bright futures for them.”