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Indiana University Health, United Way Partner to Enroll 1,500 At-Risk Children in Kindergarten

| Indianapolis—Indiana University Health, United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) and the Indiana Association of United Ways announced Monday a statewide partnership aimed at helping at-risk children transition successfully into school.

The partnership focuses on UWCI's Kindergarten Countdown, a program that equips underserved children with the basic skills they need to succeed in kindergarten. The program has three primary components: helping families navigate the school registration process, promoting school readiness through pre-kindergarten summer camps and encouraging first-day-of-school attendance.

United Way of Central Indiana began its kindergarten readiness efforts in 2007, focusing on two Indianapolis Public Schools neighborhoods. This year, IU Health will help expand Kindergarten Countdown throughout the entire IPS district and introduce the program into more than a dozen IU Health communities throughout the state.

In downtown Indianapolis, the 2011 Kindergarten Countdown will kick off from 11 am to 2 pm Saturday at the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library’s Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St. IPS parents can register their children for kindergarten, and new enrollees will receive a free backpack full of school supplies and an IPS uniform, immunizations provided by IU Health nurses, child development assessments conducted by IU Health physicians, a chance to meet PBS characters Clifford and the Cat in the Hat and even receive their first library card. Special guests Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction; and IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White will also be in attendance and the first 150 kids will receive free, special backpacks.

At 11:30 am, the media is invited to hear remarks from Ellen K. Annala, President and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana and Ron Stiver, IU Health’s Senior Vice President for Engagement & Public Affairs.

"IU Health is committed to ensuring that today's students are prepared for the demands of a globally-competitive economy," said Stiver. "We know that good education is critical to good health and quality of life, and that the stronger the start for our youngest Hoosiers - the better. This is why we are proud to partner with United Way in this important endeavor."

IU Health is supporting the effort through its 6,000-member employee volunteer initiative, the Strength that Cares program. More than 2,000 IU Health volunteers from around the state will contribute to the Kindergarten Countdown program this year.

"Research shows that up to half of kindergarteners experience moderate to significant challenges transitioning to school," said Annala. "By working together, caring adults can help turn that around. IU Health's commitment to Kindergarten Countdown and their emphasis on employee volunteerism will go a long way to helping make sure Indiana's children are ready to learn, on day one."

It is widely known that children who start behind in school generally stay behind. Just 66 percent of Hoosier students passed their English/Language Arts and Mathematics ISTEP+ exam last spring, according to the Indiana Department of Education. Studies show that early setbacks related to education and literacy have the potential to not only affect standardized test scores, but also chances at earning a college education.

PHOTO AND VIDEO OPPORTUNITIES
What: Kindergarten Countdown kickoff event
Time: 11 am – 2 pm
Date: Saturday, April 16
Who: Remarks at 11:30 am from Ron Stiver, Senior Vice President for Engagement & Public Affairs and Ellen K. Annala, President and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana.
Location: Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library’s Central Library, 40 E. St. Clair St., Indianapolis

(Volunteers will be registering children for kindergarten, issuing immunizations and offering backpacks full of supplies)

** NOTE: B-roll for advance stories is also available to news outlets by request. Please e-mail kkarol@iuhealth.org. **

For media inquiries, please contact Kristofer Karol at 317.962.4589.

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About Indiana University Health Named among the "Best Hospitals in America" by U.S. News & World Report for 13 consecutive years, Indiana University Health is dedicated to providing a unified standard of preeminent, patient-centered care. A unique partnership with Indiana University School of Medicine -- one of the nation’s leading medical schools -- gives our highly skilled physicians access to innovative treatments using the latest research and technology. Every day, IU Health positively impacts the statewide community by carrying out its mission through innovation and excellence in clinical care, education, research and service. Annually, IU Health contributes approximately $500 million through its community investment and outreach activities, impacting more than 500,000 Hoosiers.

About the Indiana Association of United Ways The Indiana Association of United Ways (IaUW) helps 62 independent, community United Ways and Funds in Indiana improve the lives of local citizens. Locally based and governed by local community leaders, United Ways address their community needs. The Indiana Association is a network providing tools and resources to help members be successful. IaUW is abbreviated with a small "a" to emphasize the power of association. Learning, consultation, successful models, grants, and advocacy support the work of staff and volunteers in each community. Learn more at www.iauw.org.

About United Way of Central Indiana Serving six Central Indiana counties, United Way of Central Indiana (UWCI) helps sustain vital human services by working exclusively with proven human service agencies that direct life-changing opportunities. UWCI also helps reduce the needs of future generations by helping ensure that kids enter school ready to learn and graduate ready to earn. Learn more at www.uwci.org

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