JSU’s Early Childhood Center Receives Early Learning Collaborative Grant


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Jackson State University is a subgrantee of a $9,195,000 Early Learning Collaborative (ELC) grant awarded to Jackson Public Schools to expand access to its high-quality Pre-Kindergarten (Pre-K) program. The collaborative partners with the Jackson Public School District are JSU’s Lottie W. Thornton Early Childhood Center, Little Saints Academy, and Hinds County Human Resource Agency, the Regions Head Start Provider.

JSU’s Lottie W. Thornton Early Childhood Center plans to use the state matching funds to expand access to prekindergarten for additional four-year-old students in Jackson. Presently, the Jackson Early Learning Collaborative serves 59% of the eligible entering kindergarten cohort. This would increase access for an additional 29% of the entering kindergarten cohort, and more than double high-quality prekindergarten access for the district since the adoption of the “Strong Start” goal two and half years ago (from 580 seats to 1,180 seats).

“I helped write and secure this funding for JPS and JSU because of the need for our community and the significant impact it will have on these young, 4-year-old scholars. For existing classrooms, the enhanced collaborative will support the development of early literacy and numeracy skills,” said JSU Director of Community Engagement Heather Denne’, Ph.D. “Additionally, our classrooms will be able to purchase items that foster learning for students and help them develop the reading foundational skills of phonological awareness and beginning phonics.”

JPS will use these state matching funds to administer, implement, monitor, and evaluate its Pre-K program to improve the quality of educational experiences offered to four-year-old scholars, and to extend developmentally appropriate educational programs and services.

“We are extremely proud and humbled to receive this grant to support our commitment to a Strong Start as part of our Strategic Plan,” said Superintendent Errick L.Greene, Ed.D. “The grant will go a long way in ensuring our Pre-K scholars have access to high-quality, full-day, early learning opportunities. It also supports our vision of every child entering kindergarten ready to experience school success.”

The grant will fund updated technology allowing students to integrate diverse media formats for reading and engage in a variety of shared reading experiences using art activities, creative writing, movement and dramatic play in addition to the use of small group activities to support and engage in reading activities.

“Ultimately, we want to try and increase enrollment at Lottie Thornton with these funds. With an increase in enrollment, we have the opportunity to assist families with tuition assistance and employ additional staff and equipment for the classrooms,” says Kanesha Bennett, Ed.D. “Here at Lottie W. Thornton Early Childhood Center, we strive to provide high-quality instruction for three and four-year-olds.”

Research shows that scholars who engage in high-quality early learning perform better in school and complete more years of education. “Early learning collaboratives have proven to be successful, and they continue to give Mississippi’s youngest students access to a quality early childhood education, positioning them for greater academic achievement,” said State Superintendent of Education Carey Wright, Ed.D . “This ELC expansion marks the largest expansion since the program was established in 2013, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the continued investment from lawmakers.”

This grant will be funded for the next three years with an opportunity to renew in 2025.

Media Contact, Anthony Howard, Anthony.j.howard@jsums.edu