OAK CREEK, Wis — In our Two Americas series, we show you the side of America you may know, or might not. This includes getting children ready for kindergarten.
In this franchise report, we show you a non-profit's creative way to help 750 children in Wisconsin get ready for school, for free. The non-profit is Waterford.org.
Four-year-old Melody Torrence loves to play with her dolls. There is also something else she enjoys using as well, for at least fifteen minutes a day: The Waterford Upstart Program on her new computer, given to her family by the non-profit for free.
The non-profit provided Melody's Oak Creek parents not just with a computer, but online classes and mentoring for free.
Six months in, her father Toriano Torrence is amazed at how much she's learned. "When she was studying and doing the work, I would hear her sound out the words," he said.
We asked Melody's mom Erica if she thinks it is working. "I would say so, yes. She has a bigger vocabulary now than she would have and she's pretty much at Kindergarten level," she said.
Kim Fischer with Waterford Upstart Program was available for free in six school districts. It is now open to families with four-year-old children state-wide to apply for the free early learning software. "Any family that feels like their child can benefit from this - if they qualify for free and reduced lunch, we'd love for them to sign up, because it costs nothing," said Fischer.
The state plans to fund $500,000 and the non-profit will match the other half million dollars. That fully covers the cost for 750 students.
"I think it will be a great thing for all parents to be honest with you to have," said Torrence.
"We want to make sure every child has access to this early literacy so they walk into Kindergarten ready," said Fischer with Waterford.org.
Click here to learn more about the Waterford Upstart program.