Walnut Hill Early Childhood wins $25,000 grand prize for family engagement

Goshen program wins first-ever prize for effective family involvement efforts

Help us celebrate along with Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center! They have been selected as the $25,000 grand prize winner for Partnerships for Early Learners’ first Family Engagement Prize. The application review process brought forward several outstanding applicants. Among the applicants, Walnut Hill stood out for their exemplary model that engages families as valued partners. Since the center’s founding, family engagement has been central to the structure of the organization. Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center shared in their application a history of working with and for families:

“When Walnut Hill was established in 1968, three core values were assigned to the organization: 1) family involvement, 2) affordability through a sliding fee scale, and 3) quality of programming through qualified teaching staff. These core values remain in place today.”

Family Engagement for Education & Emergencies Alike

Walnut Hill teachers use take-home bags to encourage families to engage in learning with their children. The bags include books and family-friendly activities emphasizing that families are their children’s first and best teachers. Additionally, the center works with the community to maintain a family emergency fund that helps with life emergencies. For example, they can provide gas cards for emergency hospital stay or assistance to a family experiencing homelessness or unseen health issues.

A Future Rooted in Family Engagement

Walnut Hill recently broke ground for a center expansion. They plan to continue their focus on family engagement as they add more capacity to their program.

Walnut Hill leaders recognize that they have room to grow, seeing the Family Engagement Toolkit as a tool for continuous quality improvement. Moving forward, program leaders plan to create ways to connect new or isolated families to the larger center family.

Please join us in congratulating Walnut Hill Early Childhood Center for their compassionate and empowering practices around family engagement.

About the author: Lenore Friedly designs and implements projects that support families and early childhood professionals with the goal of creating strong, collaborative relationships that support all young children. Developing avenues for authentic partnerships between families and providers is her professional passion. Her current projects include the Bloom Bright texting service and amplifying Indiana’s Family Engagement Toolkit. Prior to joining this team, she taught at a co-operative preschool, supported parenting teens and worked with Early Head Start families.