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First 8 Memphis plans to serve 30,000 children and their families by 2025

November 15, 2019

From Daily Memphian Article: https://dailymemphian.com/section/neighborhoods/article/8870/first-8-memphis-plans-to-serve-30000-children-and

A new Memphis nonprofit centered on early childhood programming hopes to serve 30,000 children and their families by 2025.

First 8 Memphis discussed its goals for the next six years during a press conference at Downtown Elementary School Thursday, Nov. 14. The nonprofit was formed this year to financially support and advocate for early childhood programming for children from birth to age 8.

First 8 Memphis plans to invest in early childhood programming beginning in 2020, said First 8 Memphis interim executive director Regina Walker.

“To ensure the success of our children, we don’t want to move forward another five or 10 years and we’re saying the same thing about the problems,” Walker said. “Because of you and that everything that you do, we know that we’re going to change the trajectory for our education, parents and our children.”

The idea for First 8 Memphis came from another Memphis nonprofit, Seeding Success, which focuses on early childhood development to careers. Seeding Success officials spent the past four years developing the early childhood program, which ultimately became First 8 Memphis.

First 8 Memphis’ early childhood programming model begins with investing in home visitation programs and expanding that to child care, pre-kindergarten and K-3 services. The nonprofit plans to release more metrics in the future to measure its progress.

In its goal to serve 30,000 children and their families by 2025, First 8 projects to reach 7,800 children through home visitation programs, 4,000 through child care services, 8,500 through pre-K and 9,000 in grades K-3.

Its long-term goals mirror Shelby County Schools’ goals of 90% of children to be kindergarten-ready and 90% of third-graders reading on grade level by 2025.

According to 2019 Seeding Success data, 52% of Shelby County children are kindergarten ready and 24% of third-graders are reading on grade level.

“If students are not reading on grade level by the time they reach third grade,” said Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray, “half of the curriculum taught for the remainder of their school years will be incomprehensible.”

The nonprofit also serves as the fiscal agent for more than $16 million that Shelby County government and the city of Memphis will appropriate the next several years for 1,000 pre-K seats countywide.

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris said if First 8 Memphis’ initiative is successful it can lead to higher graduation rates and employability for students.

“I can think of no better cause, no better use of our time or resources,” Harris said about the county helping fund First 8.