OCDEL Kid 35Newsroom

Pennsylvania's Promise for Children is a public awareness campaign highlighting the benefits of quality early learning for every young child in Pennsylvania. Organizations throughout the Commonwealth will be using the campaign to raise awareness in their communities.  

Fact sheets on quality early learning

Pennsylvania's Promise for Children around the Commonwealth

Check back regularly for new stories on how Pennsylvania's Promise for Children is being fulfilled around the Commonwealth.

The Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc. announced the designation of their Head Start/Early Head Start as a National Center for Excellence in Early Childhood by the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Private Industry Council is one of only 10 agencies nationally to receive this prestigious recognition, which will provide bonus funding in the amount of $200,000 per year for five years. 

Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County was nominated by Governor Rendell last December on behalf of Pennsylvania to compete for this award, based on their innovative practices in delivering early education services as well as the ongoing partnership with the OCDEL in the required areas of quality improvement, sound partnerships, comprehensive programming, staff competency, and participation in collaborative systems oversight through the Early Learning Council and its various committees.

The Private Industry Council will use the funding from this award to assist children, parents, and early education programs in preventing, reducing, and treating aggression and other inappropriate behaviors by promoting children’s emotional, social, and academic competence. The funding will also be used to disseminate best practices to Head Start, Early Head Start and other early education programs.

For additional information about the Private Industry Council of Westmoreland/Fayette, Inc., please contact Sandra Hall, director of Head Start/Early Head Start/PA Pre-K Counts at 724-430-4818, ext. 101.

The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s Community Engagement Group (CEG) donated children’s books to twelve area libraries in Northampton and Lehigh counties to help create awareness of Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children Month. The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) has designated October as Pennsylvania’s Promise for Children Month, which is an opportunity to celebrate Pennsylvania’s young children and the quality early education programs and teachers that help them reach their promise every day.
The books, bearing a book plate on the inside of each front cover showed that the CEG was making the donation, were given along with a folder of resource material containing the Kindergarten Here I Come, Kindergarten Here I Am, and Learning Is Everywhere activity guides; Born Learning packets; and information on Keystone STARS.

One librarian stated, “New families are constantly moving into our area and use our library daily.  We offer seven story times throughout the week that have full attendance and we have waiting lists as well.  So you can see how grateful we are when we are given additional materials to work with as well as pass onto our patrons.”

For additional information about the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley's Community Engagement Group, please contact Mary Widmer, CEG Coordinator at maryw@unitedwayglv.org


Conference Mobilizes 19 School Districts to Better Serve Incoming Kindergarteners in Westmoreland County

(BUILD, July 9, 2010)

At the Fred Rogers Center at Saint Vincent College teachers, early care providers and school superintendents from 19 area school districts gathered to work together on behalf of incoming kindergarten students.  The United Way of Westmoreland County’s (UWWC) School Readiness/CEG hosted a one day conference in June 2010 that served as a touch point for school district transition teams to create programs and events that prepare parents, children and staff for the child’s arrival in kindergarten.

The program opened with Jan Gebicki, Director of Education/CEG at United Way of Westmoreland County, providing an outline of the School Readiness grant opportunities.  She encouraged all to take advantage of the many resources for professional development, family activities, children orientation and other community events for their programs.  As part of the United Way School Readiness/CEG program, Ms. Gebicki outlined the benefits of preschool vision screening for children and how it can be made available for incoming kindergarten students prior to the start of the school year.  Over 900 children have been screened in the program’s first year.

Following Ms. Gebicki, Julia Slater, Educational Consultant for the PA Training and Technical Assistance Network, highlighted the benefits of important behavioral models to support the emotional and academic success for each child.  She stressed that knowing and understanding the child, his/her parents and their environment will build bridges of understanding and opportunities to better shape the student’s experience.

The morning program also featured, Harriet Dichter, then-Secretary, Pennsylvania Dept. of Public Welfare, who reviewed the background and support provided from Harrisburg for students and families.  In a separate session she also addressed the school superintendents on navigating the mandates from Harrisburg and maximizing their effectiveness during tough budgetary times.

Westmoreland County is one of a few counties in the state which has all school districts forming teams that provide quality transition activities for incoming kindergarten students.  UWWC School Readiness/CEG collaborates with all 17 school districts in Westmoreland County as well as one each in Fayette and Greene Counties to form transition teams that participate in professional development and opportunities to work with other professionals to design transition activities that will provide a seamless transition for children and their parents into kindergarten.

At the end of the day, transition team generated plans for their school district that created events and activities for all stakeholders that will help thousands of children start kindergarten ready to learn and succeed in their academic life.

For more information, please contact Janice S. Gebicki, Director of Education/CEG, United Way of Westmoreland County at 724.834.7170 Ext. 19 or jan@unitedway4u.org


(BUILD May 14, 2010)
At their meeting Wednesday April 21, 2010,  Lancaster County Commissioners Martin, Stuckey and Lehman proclaimed the Week of the Young Child and presented letters of commendation to the recipients of the 2010 Early Care and Education Awards. The Early Care and Education Awards honor individuals and organizations for their efforts in promoting the healthy development and education of young children through professional service and advocacy. 

The 2010 award recipients are:

  • Child Care Center Award - Owl Hill Learning Center of Lititz;
  • Family/Group Child Care Provider Award - Nuvia Losada Padron Family Child Care;
  • Carol D. Hess Children's Champion Award -  Lancaster County Career & Technology Center;
  • Early Childhood Leadership Award - Cheryl Gahring, Director of Child Care Services, YWCA of Lancaster.

Mark Esterbrook, CEO of Community Action Program, received a Special Recognition Award for championing child care during Pennsylvania's 2009 budget crisis.

Award winners were honored at a dinner on May 12, 2010 at the Eden Resort Inn.  The program featured Helen Blank, Director of Leadership and Public Policy at the National Women's Law Center in Washington, D.C.  Blank has authored and co-authored numerous major reports on child care policies, and has been a leader in efforts to expand, improve and implement child care provisions in welfare reform.  In addition she created the Child Care Now! Campaign, an ongoing initiative, which works to focus attention on early care and education. 

For additional information about the Early Care and Education Award Winners, please contact Judi Anderson, Director of Education at anderson@uwlanc.org


(BUILD, March 31, 2010)

On March 23, 2010, the Child Care Professional Network and Delaware County Community Engagement of the YMCA of Philadelphia & vicinity presented a plaque to Delaware County Council in appreciation on behalf of the children of Delaware County and their families “for your continuous support and commitment of early education programs during the state budget negotiations from July through October 2009.”  

Child care providers and advocates acknowledged the support of the County Council during the budget crisis by fully paying for contracted Child Care Works, Early Intervention, and other mandated services. Over 45 child care providers with more than 700 employees and multiple organizations were represented by the committee who gave the Council the award.

Council Chairman (pdf) John J. Whelan (center) accepted the award which stated, “Because you support us, we were able to keep on working!” from Margie Sebastiani (left), Owner-Director of Sonshine Christian Academy, Drexel Hill, John Sperduto (1st from left), President of Child Care Professional Network, Sally Bechtold (1st from right), Director of Aston Presbyterian Day Care Learning Center, and Ricky Pfeifer (right), Delaware County Community Engagement Coordinator of YMCA of Philadelphia & Vicinity.

Whelan was joined in receiving the award at the March 23 County Council meeting by (2d row, from left) Councilman Thomas J. McGarrigle, Council Vice Chairman Christine Fizzano Cannon and Councilman Andy Lewis.

For additional information about the work being done in Delaware County around quality early learning, please contact Ricky Pfeifer, Delaware County Community Engagement Coordinator, at 610-209-2846 or rpfeifer@philaymca.org.


On Monday, January 11, 2010, twenty local business leaders met at United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania to discuss the importance of investing in early childhood education. The gathering was the initial meeting of the Delaware Valley Early Learning Business Council, which includes local members from the Governor’s Early Learning Investment Commission as well as other business leaders in the area who are personally and/or professionally committed to improving high quality early childhood education.

This first meeting provided a forum for leaders in the business community to learn more about this issue and determine how they could make a substantive contribution to advancing the cause of high quality early childhood experiences in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It included a powerful presentation by Dr. Steve Barnett, Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIERR) at Rutgers University. Dr. Barnett spoke and answered questions about the economic case for early learning. Jill Michal, President and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, updated the group on the progress the state and region have made in improving the quality of early childhood programs. Diane Halstead, Director of Business Partnerships with the Pennsylvania Key, also helped organize the event. She provided useful background information and spoke about the importance of the Governor’s Commission.

Participants left the meeting with a better understanding of early childhood education and what they can do to help support this important cause.  The following organizations were represented at the meeting:

Acme, Aon Risk Service Inc, Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children, Deloitte, Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, ExcelleRx, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Fox Rothschild LLP, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Independence Blue Cross, KPMG LLP, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, PNC Bank,  School District of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Tri-County Chamber of Commerce, and Vanguard.

For more information, please contact Jason Kleinman, Coordinator of Philadelphia’s Community Engagement Group at jkleinman@uwsepa.org

Contact Information

For more information, contact

Kelly Swanson
Communications and Public Policy Director
Pennsylvania Early Learning Keys to Quality
301 Market Street, 8th Floor
Harrisburg, PA 17101
(717) 213-2074
email: kelswa@berksiu.org