Members of the Children, Inc. Capital Campaign team are, from left, Lori Zombek, Gary Strassel, Roger Schorr and Patrick Hughes. Photo provided

Members of the Children, Inc. Capital Campaign team are, from left, Lori Zombek, Gary Strassel, Roger Schorr and Patrick Hughes. Photos provided

By Elliot Grossman

Herald Contributor

Children, Inc., an educational nonprofit that has helped to improve the lives of thousands of Greater Cincinnati families, has launched a $5 million capital campaign so it can provide educational services to more disadvantaged children and further develop programs that fight poverty.

Children, Inc. kicked off its capital campaign, “Scaling for Impact,” at its Nov. 9 annual luncheon at the Drees Pavilion in Devou Park, Covington.

“We are humbled to tell you that, due to some astounding early support, we’ve already raised over $3.1 million towards the goal,” Campaign Co-Chair Roger Schorr announced at the luncheon. The Drees Family and the Drees Homes Foundation have made the lead campaign gift of $750,000.

Founded 40 years ago to provide quality early childhood education and care, Children, Inc. now serves school-age children as well, helping to prepare them for careers and college. It serves 3,000 children each day.

But it wants to do more – to reach more children and families with its innovative programming. “This is our opportunity to make a bigger impact,” said Rick Hulefeld, CEO and Founder of Children, Inc.

Children, Inc. plans to invest the funds in these three areas:

  • $2.5 million will pay for the renovation of five highly rated early childhood centers in underserved communities. The campaign will help Children Inc. more than double the number of students in its preschools to 1,200.
  • $1 million will help to fund scholarships for more hard-working, low-income families who cannot afford quality early childhood education and care.
  • $1.5 million will expand the capacity of Children, Inc.’s Innovation Lab to create, evaluate and disseminate two-generation solutions to poverty involving children and their parents or other caregivers.

With the funds, the Innovation Lab will develop a scalable delivery model for its Leadership Scholars Parent Academy, which Children, Inc. acquired in January. Leadership Scholars offers an eight-week program designed to provide parents with strategies and tools to support academic, social and emotional development of their children. This is the first time in Children, Inc.’s history that it is working directly with parents to provide them with the skills and mindsets they need to help their children be successful.

Frankie Bryant-Cunningham, a retired teacher who has facilitated the parent academy for several years, said she has seen the difference the program makes by coaching parents. “It’s not that they don’t want their children to succeed,” she told the crowd. “It’s that they don’t know how to help them succeed.”

The Innovation Lab will also scale up NaviGo Prep, a college and career coaching program that Children, Inc. acquired in July. NaviGo Prep coaches work with high school teachers and students to uncover students’ interests, passions and talents, helping students navigate careers and other possibilities beyond high school.

Alaria Long, a senior at Holmes High School in Covington who is involved in the NaviGo Prep program, said at the event that the program has made a big difference for her. After being mentored for four years, she has been accepted into 10 colleges. She hopes to become a nurse.

Alaria Long, a senior at Holmes High School, is benefitting from a Children, Inc. program. Photo provided

Children, Inc. has been expanding its services into Southwest Ohio, including by adding four preschools in Cincinnati that are helping to fill Cincinnati Preschool Promise seats. Children, Inc. now operates 17 preschools — most with the highest state rating — in Northern Kentucky and Southwest Ohio, more than any other nonprofit or business in the region. Only a few school districts run more.

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