Omaha, Neb. — Leadership of the Buffett Early Childhood Institute at the University of Nebraska will visit communities across the state beginning this month to learn about early childhood programs and the needs of vulnerable young children and families in Greater Nebraska.
The first in the series of community visits is a trip to Scottsbluff and Sidney May 19 – 21. Executive Director Samuel J. Meisels and members of the Buffett Institute leadership team will participate in conversations with school district superintendents, Educational Service Unit 13 staff, early childhood professionals, health and mental health providers, representatives from the 2- and 4-year colleges, business and community leaders, and others in the Panhandle.
“The Buffett Early Childhood Institute is a statewide institute of the University of Nebraska, and we are committed to serving young children at risk from Omaha to Scottsbluff,” Meisels said. “During these community visits, we will listen, learn, and begin to develop an understanding of how the Buffett Institute can partner with communities to help more children reach their potential.”
The statewide need for high-quality early childhood programs and services is urgent and growing, Meisels said. More than 42 percent of Nebraska’s children from birth through age 5 are considered at risk for school failure, based on the Nebraska Department of Education’s at-risk criteria (children who live in poverty, are second language learners, have adolescent parents, or were born prematurely). Census data suggests that the at-risk population of young children has grown faster in rural counties than urban areas. In 36 counties across Nebraska, more than 50 percent of children birth through age 5 meet at-risk criteria.
However, research demonstrates that high-quality early childhood programs can help set a positive trajectory for school and life success, Meisels said.
“By joining forces with communities, school districts, higher education partners, agencies, and others, we believe we can help Nebraska’s children in need, help our state, and strengthen our future workforce,” Meisels said.
The Buffett Institute is also planning community visits to Kearney and Grand Island, as well as communities in northeast Nebraska. Additional visits will be added in the coming months.