INDIANAPOLIS – A WSU Extension project aimed at increasing literacy among Latino childcare providers has won one of just two national Awards of Excellence presented by the Joint Council of Extension Professionals.

The award was presented at the recent Galaxy conference, the largest gathering of extension professionals in the United States, with more than 2,400 attending. Kay Hendrickson, director of the WSU Franklin County Extension office at Pasco, and WSU Extension educator Lauri Sherfey accepted the award for the Literacy and Educational Pathways for Latino Child Care Providers project

“This award speaks to the innovation and quality of the Pathways project and its real-world impact in our state,” said Linda Kirk Fox, associate vice president and dean of WSU Extension. “This is a very proud moment for WSU Extension.”

Iowa State University received the other Award of Excellence for its Horizons project, which is designed to foster community development in rural areas.

The Pathways project, which recently received a nearly $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is designed to improve the educational advancement of Latino child care providers in Benton and Franklin counties, which in turn improves the quality of care for the children in their licensed family child care environments, Hendrickson said.

She, along with the community coalition, started a pilot Spanish Literacy project in March 2007 with seed money from Women Helping Women Tri-Cities Fund and Bank of America. That pilot began with 28 family home child care providers, who care for nearly 150 children ages 11 years and younger. The child care providers meet every Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday evening after work to learn how to write sentences, do basic math and read stories in Spanish.

The grant from the Gates Foundation is being used to expand the program to serve 40 child care providers working on their primary and secondary education. It also allows for 20 additional child care providers to participate in instruction in Early Childhood Education coursework at Columbia Basin College that will prepare the providers to earn their Spanish Child Development Associate National Credential. In addition, a portion of the instruction at CBC will offer English as a Second Language curriculum to give child care providers the English language tools needed to provide a pathway to continue early childhood education coursework in the future.