October 13, 2008 Rotogram

FATHER’S CHILD

Barbara Yeates, co-founder of The Father’s Child Ministry, will report on her organization which we support. The former MSU basketball  player and her husband Ed have led this crucial program in Starkville and the Golden Triangle area since 2004.

NEXT WEEK

There’s never a dull moment when Sharon Fanning, MSU women’s basketball coach, brings a preview of the hoops season.

LAST WEEK

Invocation and Pledge: Jeff Read

Attendance: There were 62 members present and 140 absent.

Guests and visitors: Special guests included 33 Rotary spouses. Other guests of members were Ben Chiles, Continental Airlines pilot from Houston, TX, of his father Frank, Janet Browning Phillips of her father Ned, 8-month-old Delia Dixon of her mom Melissa, and J.D. Patton, Jr. of Larry Mullins. Rotary Youth Exchange guests included Taka Sato and his host family, Gary, Jane and Hugh Windham; and, Bill and Vickie Burnett, Nia Romero’s host parents (also hosted Negrita last year and Marie the year before).

Paul Harris Honoree: Joe Thompson surprised his wife Emily with a Paul Harris Fellowship in honor of her birthday.

IN MEMORIAM

Rotarian Margaret Estes passed away Sept. 28 at Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson. She was retired from Mississippi State University as vice president of academic affairs and a member of Trinity Presbyterian Church.

RAISING THE ROOF

The fall social with a silent auction and bingo doubled our goal by raising more than $6,000 for two Habitat for Humanity house roofs.

Our “Raise a Rotary Roof” initiative was inspired by a remark made by Freddie Rasberry, Starkville Habitat affiliate executive director, when he addressed the Club during the spring.

The first unit that the Starkville Rotary Club is roofing was begun in mid-September at 212 McKinley St.  Dubbed the Lynn Phillips Gaines House in honor of the long-time Habitat supporter, the 4-bedroom house will be 1100 square feet.

A typical Starkville Habitat house costs about $61,000. The roof (trusses, decking, and basic 20-year shingles) accounts for more than $3,000 of the total bill.

This year’s bingo fun had the added twist of designating winner’s rewards to silent auction purchases.

LITERACY BEGINS IN PRE-SCHOOLl

The Starkville Rotary Club is leading the state in a literacy partnership with Mississippi Public Broadcasting. “Between the Lions,” a reading program aimed at pre-kindergarten children, is a perfect fit with one of Rotary International’s major emphases.

District 6820, under Jack Forbus, past district governor, committed to the community leadership component of the educational effort. The Barksdale Reading Institute is providing major funding. And, the Mississippi State University Extension Service is providing instructional staff and support through its Resource Referral Centers for childcare providers.

“MPB has the program, we’ve got the legs, Barksdale has the money, and Extension has the training,” said Forbus. “What else do you need?”

The moniker “Between the Lions” is a reference to the massive statues that flank the entrance to the New York Public Library. It consists of 90 30-minute segments that reach into 97 percent of all U.S. markets daily.

Licensed childcare centers that qualify to participate in the Mississippi program will receive books and other instructional materials in a $1,500 kit. Through our Club’s long-range planning process, we were prepared to support up to a dozen centers this year. At this point, four providers have qualified to be our pilot operations. Not only will we pay for materials; Rotarians also will serve as mentors.

Marie Antoon, MPB executive director, briefed the Club on the program at our Sept. 29 meeting.

Five years ago, WGBH, one of public broadcasting’s top program producers, had a $20 million literacy program that had gone out of production because it was not fulfilling expectations.

MPB had taken the program to Choctaw children’s programs in Philadelphia and Head Start programs in Indianola to test its effect on early childhood reading skills and had found it workable.

In June, 2003, when Antoon broached the subject of bringing the production to Mississippi, she was met with the question, “We’re WGBH and we can’t do this. What makes you think you can?”

With the Barksdale Institute in mind, she assured the WGBH lawyer that Mississippi relationships could cover the $1 million needed to get the program back in production.

By November, Jim Barksdale had committed the million dollars.

“Between the Lions” had been intended to be the successor to “Sesame Street.” And, WGBH had never let go of one of its prime children’s programs. However, by the fall of 2004, about 20 people from Boston and New York came to Jackson to work on the production.

“They looked at us like, ‘Do you wear shoes?’” she said. “And, we looked at them like, ‘I’m sorry, who are the Red Sox?’”

In the end, the result was a culture blending that has resulted in 5 daytime Emmy nominations this year. More importantly, year after year, evaluations show significant gains in children’s literacy preparedness.

After 3 years of testing in Mississippi childcare centers, MPB is ready to expand the effort and Rotary is its catalyst partner. Eleven centers with Rotary involvement have been confirmed across the state.

Persons with early childhood education expertise are being hired to work with the pilot centers. Their first step is to analyze the environment and recommend improvements. Each center is expected to provide 40 minutes of daily reading activity, and not just play the DVDs.

“Yes, it’s intensive,” Antoon said. “But, the reality is that you have to get to kids by the age of 3 to make a difference.”

The Barksdale Reading Institute’s early experimentation found that targeting third graders was too late.

Rotary involvement is crucial in providing adult role models for children whose parents cannot read themselves.

Beyond our commitment to buy classroom kits, Antoon spelled out the Club’s challenges:

  1. Commit to conducting pre– and post-tests.
  2. Be designated readers.
  3. Introduce cooperating center directors at Club meetings.

Serving Above Self — Rotarians Steve Langston, Jeff Read, Tommy Prentice, Tony Vizzini and Larry Mullins cook some fine steak and chicken for the fall social. Missing from the picture, but not from the evening, is event organizer Bobby Crosland. Gerri Orgler, Judy Webb and Dinah Jordan handled decorations on short notice.

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