Fuller honored for contributions to early childhood education program

vivianfuller1501Jackson State University’s Director of Athletics Vivian L. Fuller, Ph.D., was presented with an appreciation award on Thursday for her contributions to the Little Tigers Program, an early education initiative in the College of Education and Human Development.

Dr. Ingrad Smith, College of Education associate dean and co-project director, presented Fuller with the plaque, thanking her for helping the program by supplying T-shirts, sports items and food.

“She just jumped in and her efforts really helped the program as it expanded to reach more households in the Jackson area,” Smith said. “We wanted to do something to let her know how grateful we are.”

After accepting the award, Fuller later discussed the importance of giving back to the community.

“These children are our future, and we have to make sure they get the best start in life. These kinds of programs will help give them that boost,” Fuller said.

The Little Tigers program grew out of the Washington Addition Prenatal Early Childhood Project, which had received a $1.6 million, five-year grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. The Washington Addition project only targeted children from that neighborhood, so the program had limited resources for the children who came from other areas of the city, said Smith.

“We didn’t want to turn anyone away,” Smith said.  “Dr. Fuller and the JSU Division of Athletics staff came to our rescue with food, sports items and T-shirts for the students.”

There are about 40 families enrolled in the program, which is in its fourth year. The children participate in a number of activities designed to ensure they are ready to begin — and thrive — in kindergarten and first-grade. The children are given books, and they spend time in the Harris-Gambrell Reading Center located at the college.

“We take them on field trips and show educational, fun movies,” said Angela Gobar, Ph.D., project director for the Washington Addition Project.

Gobar said parents are encouraged to be a part of their children’s learning experience by reading books aloud to them and initiating other school-readiness activities.

Past activities have included “Music Day” and “Healthy Food Day,” when the art of music and the benefits of healthy eating were emphasized.

Thursday’s session focused on exercise. A group of youngsters jumped on trampolines, and played with hula hoops as Jacqueline Jackson, Ph.D., who is the director of Kids Kollege, explained how exercise is beneficial to academic growth.

Carla Hammond-Harvey is a teacher for the program, but her child is also enrolled. Hammond-Harvey said she likes Little Tigers because the teacher-student ratio is lower than in other early childhood education programs.

“The children really get a one-on-one experience. It’s a close-knit faculty and staff, and I’ve seen the difference pre-K programs can make in a child’s life,” Hammond-Harvey said.

For more information about the program, contact Ingrad Smith, at 601-979-2351.

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