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1/10/2018 5:48:00 PM
Local labor unions support Howard County kindergarten classrooms
Cheryl Graham of the United Way of Howard County brings school supplies to Becky Schmidt's Western Primary School kindergarten class Jan. 8, 2018. Ethan Alderfer tries on the rubber gloves that were donated along with various other sensory items. | Tim Bath, Kokomo Tribune
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Cheryl Graham of the United Way of Howard County brings school supplies to Becky Schmidt's Western Primary School kindergarten class Jan. 8, 2018. Ethan Alderfer tries on the rubber gloves that were donated along with various other sensory items. | Tim Bath, Kokomo Tribune

Caele Pemberton, Kokomo Tribune Education Reporter

RUSSIAVILLE - Local labor unions are adopting kindergarten classes in Howard County as a way to support the United Way’s goal of increasing kindergarten readiness.

Last year, the United Way of Howard County announced its new annual campaign, "#75in5." The initiative is focused on increasing kindergarten readiness in Howard County. Currently, just 45 percent of Howard County kindergarteners are entering the classroom ready to learn. The goal is to increase that number to 75 percent by 2022.

To help support that goal, labor unions adopted 56 public and private classrooms around the county, providing totes full of school supplies to help more than 1,200 students finish their last semester of kindergarten.

Cheryl Graham, AFL-CIO labor activity director for the United Way of Howard County, said many local unions have a strong history of supporting education. For over two decades, local unions have come together every year to provide school supplies and backpacks to underprivileged children in the community during the annual S.U.P.P.L.I.E.S. program.

“The union community wanted to expand this commitment to teachers and classrooms, and the #75in5 initiative proved to be the best way to expand our commitment,” Graham said in a press release.

This week, union members have been delivering totes filled with items requested by kindergarten teachers. Graham delivered a tote Monday to Becky Schmidt’s classroom at Western Primary School. Schmidt requested items her children could use for a sensory table, which will allow them to play with different textures and objects.

The tote Graham delivered included everything from mashed potatoes to bird seed to bubble wrap and more than a dozen other items Schmidt’s students will be able to play with throughout the rest of the semester.

“This will be great,” Schmidt said as her students explored the items.

Rex Ambrose, local president of United Steel Workers Local 2985, said by supporting local kindergarten classes, unions are working on fixing things at the foundation.

“Not starting at the foundation is like building a home from top to bottom; it doesn’t work,” Ambrose said in the press release. “Organized labor was given the opportunity of a lifetime to adopt these classrooms to start building bright futures, from the foundation.”

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