Children from birth to age 5 in Monroe County participated in a celebratory weekend on June 25th and 26th to commemorate Monroe County becoming the first county in the United States to obtain Excel By 5 certification. Excel By 5 certification signifies that our communities have joined forces to insure that our children are healthier and better prepared to enter kindergarten. Truly, this was a time of fun, learning, and excitement as over 1000 people celebrated early childhood education.
To kick off the weekend, business leaders and education administrators from throughout the county met for a dinner at the Gilmore Foundation Conference Center on Friday night, June 25th. Dr. Thomas Moore, renowned early childhood specialist and musician, wowed his audience by blending education, inspiration, and music into a presentation that left those in attendance saying “sign me up; I’ll do whatever I can for the children in our county!”
The setting for the June 26th Saturday “EXCELebration” was the Advanced Learning Center at Becker. The grounds and facilities provided the perfect spot for hundreds of children to experience their county coming together to celebrate early childhood education, along with every fun event a preschool child could imagine! There were free t-shirts, armbands, books, games, jumpers, water slides, live animals, a parade, facepainting, concerts, hotdogs, popcorn, snow cones, reading with GELI Dog, and of course an “EXCELebration” cake. In addition to “brain-building” opportunities for the children, educational materials and health information booths were available for parents to gain valuable resources on child-rearing, along with training sessions for early childhood educators.
The climax of the event was the arrival of the Excel By 5 flag. GELI, the familiar and beloved mascot of the Gilmore Early Learning Initiative, descended from the skies via helicopter to “deliver” the certification emblem to Monroe County. Cheers of excitement mingled with tears of joy were evident in the bystanders as GELI Dog crossed the field bearing the flag alongside state representatives of Excel By 5.
What does this mean for Monroe County? It means that we have accomplished a milestone that will benefit preschool children and their families for years to come; but it also means that the citizens of our great county, the Monroe County Coalition of Excel By 5, and the lead agency – Gilmore Early Learning Initiative, have set the standard for the hopes and dreams we have for our children. In future years, when those children have excelled beyond their wildest dreams, may they look back and remember this day of celebration as confirmation of their importance and value to all of us.