A 2012 grant for $5 million from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to the Early Learning Neighborhood Cooperative (ELNC) funded pre-school opportunities for three- and four-year-olds in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Now, one of the leading funders of early learning programs has kicked off 2016 by expanding on that invesment, awarding $5.5 million over four years to ELNC, a Grand Rapids nonprofit, to expand access to high-quality early childhood education.
ELNC's overall goal is to offer improved learning environments for children from birth to age five in Michigan's second-largest city. This new round of funding from Kellogg wil enable ELNC to continue support for three- and four-year-olds targeted by the initial $5 million grant, as well as build comprehensive early childhood systems in Grand Rapids, looking at serving infants and toddlers.
To improve access to early learning opportunities, ELNC partnered with seven organizations in eight locations, including in Grand Rapids Public Schools campuses. Partner organizations include the Baxter Community Center, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, various churches and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits.
ELNC's core beliefs — that every child deserves a fair chance at success in school and life, that economic security is crucial to helping children learn and grow, that people have the inherent capacity to solve their own problems, and that racial healing and equity are essential to creating conditions in which children can succeed — are strongly aligned with Kellogg's mission and funding priorities. Besides its long record of funding early childhood education projects, Kellogg is also committed to funding education, health, and civic engagement activities in its home state of Michigan.
Research shows that early learning greatly increases children's chances for success in elementary and secondary education, especially for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. With its funding of ELNC, Kellogg hopes to lay a foundation for ensuring that Grand Rapids children persist and succeed through the K-12 system and into college.