Communities In Schools (CIS) of Virginia, Communities In Schools of Petersburg, and Sesame Street in Communities (SSIC) launched a new partnership with Petersburg City Public Schools focused on preparing young learners and their families for kindergarten.

The partnership, which aims to help young children build coping skills and foster nurturing connections between them and the caring adults in their lives, will support Petersburg families with young children by providing free, easy-to-use Sesame Street resources through a partnership with Communities In Schools of Petersburg and Westview Early Childhood Education Center.

A kickoff event for the partnership was held on March at Westview Early Childhood Education Center in Petersburg.  CIS of Petersburg President and CEO Wanda Stewart and Petersburg City Public Schools superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin were joined by Sherrie Westin, president of Sesame Workshop, to showcase how the program leverages combined expertise in relationship-based support to maximize family engagement in early learning. The program featured interactive demonstrations of the dynamic, family-centered resources and activities the program is bringing to the Westview community focusing on critical topics such as resilience, emotions, community service and kindergarten readiness and transition.

Petersburg will be the second community to pilot the early-childhood collaboration between Communities In Schools and SSIC, which was first launched in West Virginia in 2020. Westin shared outcomes from the West Virginia pilot including data showing 94% of parents and guardians responded that they were satisfied with the gains of the program and will continue to use what they learned. Another, 86% of caregivers reported as the result of the program, they’re better able to help their children become school-ready, have more strategies and tools to help them care for themselves, loved ones, and better understand how their child expresses stress, and how to help their child handle big feelings.

Westview Early Childhood Education Center houses 20 Head Start classrooms, as well as Virginia Preschool Initiative and Early Childhood Special Education classrooms that transition students into four elementary schools in the division.

The program’s goals are to positively impact behavior, attendance, self-regulation, and school readiness for Westview students as they prepare for kindergarten, and to strengthen parent and caregiver engagement during the critical transition to kindergarten.  CIS and Sesame Street in Communities hope to show positive outcomes that support expansion of the initiative to additional school districts.