A superhero gives us hope

Virtual learning may be keeping students and educators safe during the pandemic, but it’s also believed to be responsible for students falling behind. And as we head into winter, the numbers are growing at an alarming rate. But there is hope. Isaac, aka Spiderman, a five-year-old who wears his superhero suit proudly, is thriving.

With more than 500 children on a waiting list, it took years for Isaac’s dreams of going to school at Pathways Early Education Center of Immokalee to come true. His mother works at a Naples golf course and his father works in construction. Without a car, they walk Isaac to school every day before finding transportation to their jobs. Through a customized Pathways Plan, Isaac is developing the academic and social-emotional skills needed to succeed. He’s quickly learning English and can now ask his friends, “Do you want to play with me?” His mother says he is more conversational at the dinner table, encouraging his family to speak English too.

While Pathways celebrates the accomplishments of one child, there are hundreds more that may never have the same opportunity. In 2019, the state released startling statistics. 42 percent of children in Florida’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) program were not prepared to advance. Those numbers are much higher in communities like Immokalee where it’s estimated there are close to 1100 underserved youngsters.

A study from the National Institute of Health revealed adults from low-income families who had been engaged in early education programs achieved higher education levels than those receiving alternate interventions. They had higher incomes, lower crime rates and fewer reports of depression. The study concluded education can improve the overall health of the community as these students make better choices.

So what does the future hold for Isaac? No doubt he will continue to face challenges but being prepared with vital language, literary and social skills, he is certain to stand a better chance at realizing his dreams. And he can still wear the Spiderman suit on weekends.

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