Imagine having to send your child to kindergarten with no previous educational experience or formal early childhood care. This is the reality for 35% of Colorado’s parents and children under the age of 6. In fact, there are enough high-quality slots for just 16% of eligible children throughout the state.
Giving all children a strong start so they begin school ready to succeed is a key piece of Mile High United Way’s mission. Through the United for Families initiative, Mile High United Way offers the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) program to families working to ensure all children begin school kindergarten ready.
HIPPY is an evidence-based program that works with families in the home to support parents, primarily, mothers, in their critical role as their child’s first and most important teacher. HIPPY strengthens families and communities by empowering mothers to prepare their children for success in school.
In less than two years HIPPY has created meaningful change for the parents and caregivers enrolled in the program. In HIPPY’s first year, 32 families participated. For the 2021-22 school year we doubled the HIPPY program to move families off the waiting list, supporting 68 families in total, including, Yazmin and her son Ruben.
Ruben was diagnosed with a speech delay at 15 months old. He began speech therapy, working closely with a developmental interventionalist. However, Yazmin saw opportunity for additional growth. She enrolled in HIPPY when she learned about the program from her cousin (also a HIPPY participant) in August 2021, and quickly saw a transformation in Ruben.
“It’s been amazing. Once we started the Mile High United Way HIPPY program, that’s when Ruben really started talking and growing. Now he’s my little chatterbox and he is talking so much,” Yazmin said.
Over the span of 30 weeks parents and caregivers receive unique and developmentally appropriate curriculum. HIPPY Home Visitors use role play with parents to teach the skills required for implementation with their children. Staff conducts weekly check-ins to answer questions and provide additional support.
“HIPPY helps parents by building bridges to the larger community, ending isolation, and providing steps to prepare their children for success in school. HIPPY is just one amazing example of how we can continue supporting early childhood education and lift up families in our community,” said Catalina Gonsales, Community Advocate Supervisor of Mile High United Way’s United for Families program.
The program has also provided additional outlets for learning beyond reading. Ruben especially enjoys the age-appropriate memory games and movement-based activities. For Yazmin, the one-on-one time with Ruben is the most enjoyable part.
“He looks forward to doing (the activities,” she said. “Sometimes it’ll sound like he’s not paying attention when we go over the packet and materials. Then a few days later he’ll say something we read, or he’ll try to initiate the activities instead of me telling him to do it.”
Yazmin also connected with a network of support through meeting the other HIPPY parents. She recently joined the program’s Advisory Council and works in our 211 Help Center as a Resource Navigator, a position referred to her by her HIPPY Home Visitor.
“I was in a financial hardship, and I know what it feels like. Giving them that bit of hope [through 211] is everything,” Yazmin said.
Learn more about HIPPY and United for Families
United for Families focuses on identifying high-need areas and resources to ensure all children in our community have access to high-quality early childhood education. HIPPY is just one of the ways we are moving the needle on kindergarten readiness in Metro Denver. Learn more about how Mile High United Way is expanding access to quality early childhood education.