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Recipients of the Strong Start for Kindergarten Prize Announced

Selected submissions demonstrated innovative solutions for improving the transition from early learning to kindergarten 


Early Learning Indiana today announced recipients of a $100,000 prize focused on identifying innovative ideas to ensure Hoosier children move effectively into the kindergarten classroom. The Strong Start for Kindergarten Prize competition was a new initiative funded by Indiana’s Preschool Development Grant.

A smooth transition into kindergarten creates a foundation for children to build upon throughout the rest of their K-12 journey. Programs that encourage family engagement and strengthen the connective experience between pre-K and K-12 set the stage for continued social and emotional growth and academic attainment in elementary education and beyond.

“A child’s first days and weeks in a kindergarten classroom can set the stage for school success in the following years,” Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Maureen Weber said. “Whether they help children feel comfortable in new school settings, build links from pre-K to elementary teachers or give families support during the transition, each of the promising practices shared by winners of the Strong Start for Kindergarten Prize really tackle this important moment.”

Early Learning Indiana received 55 entries from school districts, early learning providers and non-profit community organizations representing 24 Indiana counties. Submissions for the Strong Start for Kindergarten prize were evaluated on their correlation to national research on early learning, ability to demonstrate measurable outcomes, and potential for replication in other Indiana communities. The nine recipients of the prize will be awarded $5,000 to $25,000 in recognition of their high-impact kindergarten transition programs.

The recipients are:

 Organization      City
 School City of Hobart’s Building Brickies Hobart
 United Way of Allen County Fort Wayne
 Portage Township YMCA Portage
 United Way of Porter County Valparaiso
 Pace Community Action Agency Vincennes
 Lewis Cass Schools Walton
 Perry Township School District Preschool Indianapolis
 Johnson County Learning Center Greenwood
 Indiana University Campus Children’s Center Bloomington


“These awards are a great example of the impact the preschool development grant funding is having in Indiana,” said Nicole Norvell, director of Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning. “It is important that we recognize and reward local communities for working together to ensure that students have a successful transition into kindergarten. This allows us to learn about these examples of excellence so that they can be replicated to help create a roadmap for how all young learners can begin their K-12 experience with as much support as needed.”

Early Learning Indiana will share both the Strong Start for Kindergarten winning practices and the results of their national landscape review of effective practices later this year.


Early Learning Indiana is a leading voice in the conversation about the future of early learningand its role in helping to solve K-12 and workforce challenges. Today, Early Learning Indiana operates nine high-quality Day Early Learning centers, a network of premier community-based lab schools used to advance the science of early learning, train the next generation of teachers and leaders, and instill essential skills in the children we serve. Through regional and statewide programs, the organization enables early learning providers to build capacity, transform operations, and improve learning outcomes. More information is available at

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