Now she helps a much younger age group prepare for school with the Ready For School program in the Holland/Zeeland area, which has garnered the attention of Holland City Council.
“We have resources that, with this program, give children a better beginning,” VerDuin said.
The Ready for School program was launched in 2007 by the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area in order to provide early childhood resources for families. VerDuin started working part-time with the program following her retirement from Circuit Court in 2008.
For two years, VerDuin worked out of a Holland coffee shop to put together the projects offered through the organization. In the fall of 2010, Hope College gave the organization an office space in downtown Holland. It has since grown to having nearly 300 people who volunteer to help the betterment of children, and VerDuin is executive director.
In its first year, the organization partnered with four Holland-area school districts and surveyed 1,300 kindergartners. Results indicated that 53 percent of kindergartners did not have letter and number recognition in order to be successful in their grade level, VerDuin said.
Ready for School staff also discovered there were a myriad of obstacles that factored into why some children did not comprehend letter and number recognition — including preschool and day care costs, transportation, hours of service available, and trust. The parents also did not know what it meant to be ready for school, the program’s staff said.
Local businesses and organizations have partnered with Ready for School, creating tasks forces to help families provide the tools for those childhood building blocks. The program now includes 11 school districts — public, parochial and charter schools.
During its Jan. 18 meeting, Holland City Council recognized the Ready For School initiative by presenting it with the city’s Human Relations Committee 2011 Education Social Justice Award.
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