Wimauma Community Education Partnership: Helping Children be Ready to Succeed in School

In late 2016, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay brought together a large group of organizations and individuals with a question: What can

we do collectively to give the residents of Wimauma – adults and children – more opportunities to prosper.

The area in southern Hillsborough County is home to a large number of low-income residents, many of them migrant workers and their families. More than half of the children in the two local elementary schools, Wimauma and Reddick, are not proficient in English. Between 85 and 90 percent of them are eligible for free or reduced lunch. Public transportation in the area is limited, and development is encroaching on the formerly rural community.

After several conversations among representatives of more than 40 public and nonprofit organizations, it became clear that an immediate gap in service that the group could a

ddress was helping the young children of the community be better prepared for school. To be “kindergarten ready.”

Kindergarten ready children are more likely to be reading proficiently by 3rd grade, and kids who can read by 3rd grade are more likely to be successful in the rest of their educational career.

The Wimauma Community Education Partnership was born.

The Hillsborough County School District agreed to bring a free voluntary prekindergarten program back to the area for the first time in years because of the community support. In this culturally rich community, it was important to have trusted community members invite students to the program.  Past efforts had not been successful.

This time, with communication support from the Wimauma Community Development Corporation and Enterprising Latinas, among others, the district was able to recruit 45 students to a traditional 300-hour VPK at the schools and another 17 to a migrant student VPK class.

The Community Foundation of Tampa Bay committed $85,000, made possible by the legacy fund of Sun City Center resident Harold Corrigan, to enrich the VPK program with visits from Bess the Book Bus, Giving Tree Music and Nomad Art Bus.

The Community Foundation’s funding also supported older students being served by the Wimauma location of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.

To build upon the success of the Summer 2017 VPK programs, school partners are expanding the work in Summer 2018. In addition offering the VPK classes again, the schools will include a 300-hour summer bridge program for kindergarten students heading to 1st grade and tutoring for 3rd grade students struggling to read at grade level.

A Community Foundation grant again will offset costs, including more enrichment activities.

Other partners in the efforts – providing funding, programming support and family outreach – include:

Staff at the schools report that the students who participated in summer 2017 have done well in kindergarten, though the official evaluations are still being compiled.