Excel by 5 summit highlights importance of early development

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Excel by 5 is changing the way Mississippi thinks about early childhood education.

"This is a time where once a year we come together to celebrate everyone's success," boasts Excel by 5 co-founder, Steve Renfroe.

On Wednesday, Renfroe greeted a room filled with representatives from 35 communities across Mississippi who are partnering with Excel by 5 to help children get the best possible start in life, for the start of the fourth annual Excel by 5 Summit at the Old Capitol Inn in Jackson.

"The ultimate goal for Excel by 5 is for communities to pull their existing resources together to support families to ensure that all children will enter kindergarten healthy, happy, and ready to be successful," explains new board president, Nadine Coleman.

Brice Wiggins was one of the original coalition members for Excel by 5 in Pascagoula. The now state senator for District 52 says early education should be a priority for state leaders, saying "The fact of the matter is children learn between zero and five more than they do any other time in their life. And if we're going to educate our children and keep them out of prison, than we've got to start from birth to five. That's what we've got to do."

The volunteers, educators, city and county leaders that make up Excel by 5 coalitions across the state are striving to do just that. The annual summit gives them an opportunity to share their success stories, and learn from each other about the best ways to help children succeed.

Ellen Goodman represents the Oktibbeha County Excel by 5 coalition, the newest community to become Excel by 5 certified.

"It's wonderful, and it's great to see that the room is packed and that it's spreading across the state," says Goodman. "It says that early childhood is so important to everyone."

Bob Clay, Executive Director for Excel by 5 hopes that with the help of community partners like Chevron, our school districts, and elected leaders, the initiative will continue to grow.

He says, "I really see that excel by 5 will grow and the more communities that come on board, the more benefit it will be to the state of Mississippi. So I see a bright future for excel by 5 as we move forward."

Coalition leaders also heard from a retired Army general about Just how important early education is to our military. Major General Roger Shields, with Mission Readiness told the group that in Mississippi, 80% of people between the ages of 17 and 24 cannot join the military, because they don't qualify; they can't pass the educational or physical requirements for entry. Shields said that's why early education is vital to our national security.

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