Waterford’s UPSTART program aims to fill the gaps in the current early education system. Their innovative digital solution helps families across the US overcome access barriers like transportation, availability and cost by providing an at-home model that’s proven effective, with parents getting the support they need to serve as their child’s first teacher. This digital solution will help 250,000 children build valuable literacy skills, and help place them at the same starting line as their peers.
Main photo caption: An in-home care provider in Ohio supports a Waterford UPSTART student through her learning. / Waterford.org
Waterford UPSTART’s signature readiness program helped more than 20,000 children in 13 states prepare for kindergarten this school year, even as COVID-19 affected schools nationwide. Next year, Waterford UPSTART will grow to reach 34,000 students across 23 states.
Waterford developed an emergency COVID-19 Summer Learning Path program for preschool-aged children, providing mentorship, coaching, and free computers and Internet service for families in need. With the support of private partners and the Governor’s Emergency Education Fund, the program served an additional 13,000 children across nine states and the Navajo Nation.
Through expanded public partnerships, Waterford is now providing sustainably funded programs in six states: Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.
A Summer Program Helps Families Avoid Learning Loss
As cities across America experienced rolling lockdowns and school shutdowns at the onset of the pandemic, Waterford.org jumped to action, raising philanthropic funds to implement a free emergency COVID-19 summer learning program for preschool-age children. This at-home early learning program helped keep children on track over the summer, and aimed to support the students and families affected by the pandemic through personal economic hardship or the indefinite
closure of preschool and Head Start programs. The Waterford UPSTART Summer Learning Path program was implemented from June 1 through September 31, 2020, and included computers and Internet service for families that needed them, at no cost. In the program, parents received a personal coach and, through Waterford Mentor, families received individualized updates and tips to continue the engagement offline too.
The pandemic provided an opportunity for Waterford to step to the forefront in the national conversation related to screen time and young children. They have been able to reinforce their message that quality screen time with family support can be a strong option to support unserved children. Much of this visibility was as a result of the Summer Learning Path program, which was extremely well-received by parents and legislators.
“COVID-19 provided us with unique and expanding opportunities. It became necessary for us to fully implement our programs while, at the same time, transitioning our own Waterford.org team to working from home. The success of the transition made us realize that working from home — and beyond Utah — provided key recruitment opportunities to support our growing diversity, equity, and inclusion goals for the organization and the families we serve. We not only adapted but grew and thrived during difficult times.”