Original Article: Philadelphia Tribune
A preschool program started in Israel and highlighted by President Bill Clinton during the Democratic National Convention two weeks ago is celebrating its inaugural year of helping families here in Philadelphia.
Home Instruction for the Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) has worked with 30 local families on how to prepare their young children for success in school. It focuses particularly on children most at-risk to struggles later in life due to poverty.
“Hillary told me about a preschool program developed in Israel, [named] HIPPY,” Clinton said during the DNC on July 26. “The idea was to teach low-income parents, even those that couldn’t read, to be their children’s first teachers.”
The former president continued, “[Hillary] said she thought it would work in Arkansas. I said ‘that’s great, what are we going to do about it?’ She said, ‘I already did. I called a woman from the program in Israel. She’ll be here in about 10 days to help us get started.’”
President Clinton said research shows quality preschool education improves school readiness and academic achievement. Funding for Philadelphia’s HIPPY program comes from the William Penn Foundation and Pew Charitable Trust and was brought to the city through Diversified Community Services, a Point Breeze nonprofit social service agency that works with children, adults and families for its mission of early education.
The first year of the program was geared toward 3-year-olds. This year will continue with 3- and 4-year-olds, and year three will include kindergarten.
“The idea of the program is three years of curriculum,” explained Siria Rivera, director of two generational programming at Diversified Community Services. “We start at three years old, and they get another program when they’re four. We follow them through kindergarten before they start first grade.”
Rivera said the goal is to have 60 students enrolled in all three age ranges in the South Philadelphia program simultaneously. Home visitors go to parents’ homes biweekly to instruct them on how to use HIPPY educational materials, which focuses on cognitive and early literacy skills, and social, emotional and physical development.
“Our program was the first in Philadelphia,” Rivera said. “And in the tri-state area, it’s only the second.”
Sareeta Hoffman’s 3-year-old son Ahmad was enrolled in the program last year.
“I think the program actually enhances the things that he is already learning in school,” Hoffman, a mother of five, said. “Basically, it’s more of a reinforcement with the curriculum that they give out to the parents. And it also gives you that one-on-one with the child.”
The local HIPPY site ultimately seeks to serve about 180 children. To qualify, children must live in Philadelphia and be age 3 or 4 by Oct. 15. For more information, visit www.dcsphila.org