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First Lady Visits Dennis Pre-K Center, Praises Early Childhood Program


​​First Lady of Illinois Diana Rauner visited Dennis Early Childhood Center this morning along with a handful of state legislators to see Rockford’s successful prekindergarten programming firsthand. “It’s important for our youngest learners to have access to a real comprehensive system of supports for families from before birth through age 5,” Rauner said. “I am so encouraged to see what this school system is doing to promote that.”

Rauner is the president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a public-private partnership that prepares children for success in school and in life. She lauded Rockford and its partner, the City of Rockford Head Start, for providing a cohesive, effective pre-kindergarten program.

State Sen. Dave Syverson, State Rep. Joe Sosnowski, State Rep. Litesa Wallace, State Sen. Tim Bivens, and representatives from the City of Rockford, Head Start and Rockford Public Schools also attended the tour. Dennis is the perfect site for legislators to see, because it serves students through three grant-funded programs: The City of Rockford Head Start, a full-day program for 4-year-old students, and a regular half-day preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds. It takes local, state and federal dollars to support Rockford students.

“Rockford’s early childhood leadership has demonstrated an ability to make Rockford an exemplar of what we hope every city in Illinois can do, which is take the many opportunities that we have from a federal and state perspective to support families and very young children,” Rauner said.

Superintendent Ehren Jarrett told the group Rockford Public Schools’ award-winning Early Childhood program lays the groundwork for student success. “We are so excited about what we can accomplish in our district,” Jarrett said. “We know true success starts right here at that birth-to-3 level and in early childhood. We want all of our students to have the opportunity to start school ready.”

RPS 205 Early Childhood provides comprehensive services to young children and families who experience risk factors for academic failure. So far this year, more than 2,000 students are enrolled, and classroom seats are still available. The mission: empower all young children to become effective, enthusiastic and socially competent learners by creating a bond among children, their families, the school and the community.

All three RPS 205 Early Childhood Centers were recognized in 2015 with the Award of Excellence for Inclusion of Children with Special Needs from ExceleRate Illinois. Three Head Start centers through the City of Rockford have received the Gold Circle of Quality in ExceleRate: Fairgrounds, Orton Keyes and Dennis.