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Cathedral triples capacity for quality Early Childhood learning

One strategy to reach Prosper Lincoln’s Early Childhood goal of ensuring children are kindergarten ready, is to increase capacity of high quality programs. Jeremy Ekeler, Principal at Cathedral of the Risen Christ School, admitted that their day care and preschools needed a new approach in order to help meet this need in the community.

“We used to have a preschool and daycare, but with no real distinction,” Ekeler explained. Three years ago, administration at Cathedral began researching a new approach, ultimately settling on Nature Explore as the best option for their community of families.

“Prosper Lincoln connected me with people who had tangible research and data that backed up what we knew anecdotally,” Ekeler said. “Discussions with people I met through the Lincoln Early Childhood Network and Michelle Suarez were inspiring, and the connections we made we invaluable.”

When the new 3-4 year old and pre-kindergarten classrooms opened in 2016, 17 placements filled. Gradually, the program expanded to an afternoon class for families that weren’t sure if their child was ready for Kindergarten yet. That lead to 48 placements.

This year, they’ve settled on a menu of options that allows families to use a single class or blended approach depending on their needs, resulting in 65 students. Every slot was quickly filled, illustrating the need for this type of programming in the community.

Quality early learning produces effects long into the future. “We’re already seeing improvements in our 2nd and 3rd graders,” said Ekeler.

“They say, ‘The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today,’ said Ekeler. “That’s the approach we take to early childhood.”

Quotes From Our Supporters

Prosper Lincoln is one of the most exciting community engagement and community-building efforts happening in the country.  It’s a real model!

Dan Cramer, Co-founder, Grassroots Solutions, St. Paul, MN

Prosper Lincoln will not only benefit all of your kids and your community; it is also a model for similar efforts around the country, thanks to the leadership of LCF.

Richard Ober, President & CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Founder Community Foundation Opportunity Network; Concord, NH

Communities across the US are searching for innovative initiatives to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  We can all learn from the amazing work of Prosper Lincoln!

Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas

Prosper Lincoln is breaking new ground in economic revitalization without displacement.

Ellen Shepard, CEO, Allies, Chicago, IL

To see an entire community come together to ensure all Lincoln residents are successful is very inspirational.  Congratulations!

Nancy Van Milligen, President/CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

In my regional and national work in community development this is one of the most unique and exciting strategies for true change I have seen!

Del Gines, Senior Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha, NE

Bringing together a multi-sector group of committed Lincoln residents will support prosperity for all.  Congratulations on this excellent collaboration.

Holly C. Sampson, President, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth, MN

Diverse voices from across Lincoln came together so that current and future generations can thrive. This is no small feat, and it’s inspiring to see that collective vision inch closer to fruition. You can consider yourselves a model for other communities starting to embark on this work.

Megan Powers, International Program Officer, The McKnight Foundation Minneapolis, MN

There is no better example of the power of convening than Prosper Lincoln! Bringing together members of the community from all walks of life to enrich the City is inspiring.

Regine Webster, Vice President Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is creating a national model for building vibrant, equitable and resilient communities.  Systems thinking + the right resources!

Sandy Wiggins, Chair, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is an important approach to solving community problems. By bringing together local businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, government and faith organizations, they are bridging divides, building connections, and sparking opportunities in way that shows true community engagement.

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

This is one of the most impressive community focus efforts I have seen. You are making considerable progress!

Cynthia Hardin Milligan, Trustee and former Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI

Lincoln is one of a few cities across America where citizens and leaders from across different sectors have come together to tackle their community’s most complex challenges. Your ability to already show results and persevere is inspiring.

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, Washington, DC

Solving tough national problems like the opportunity gap begins locally, and Prosper Lincoln is leading the way.

Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Policy and author, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing more powerful in securing a community’s long-term health than evolving a shared vision through community engagement. Congratulations!

Rip Rapson, President, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit, MI