Weather Forecast


Early Childhood Initiative celebrates 10 years

Helping children grab ahold of all the positive opportunities possible is something to celebrate.

Not only is it helping them to succeed as a child, but also as they grow into adults. An investment in young children is an investment in their future and the future of the community.

That’s the focus of the 10-year celebration of Minnesota’s Early Childhood Initiative, which supports the local Becker County Early Childhood Initiative and the White Earth Early Childhood Initiative activities. The early childhood coalition has been in Becker County for about five to six years.

“We decided to work together because we have a lot of agencies in common,” Fran Rethwisch said of Becker County and White Earth. She is the coordinator through Mahube-Otwa Community Council for early childhood, and Terri Darco serves as coordinator for White Earth.

Help now for a better future

According to Associate Economist Ron Grunewald, every $1 spent now on early childhood saves $16 later because of the more successful life an adult can achieve.

That success includes economic development, thanks to jobs these children will eventually choose, and less money spent correcting criminal activities.

According to the Early Childhood Initiative website, scientific research confirms that children’s earliest experiences affect their ability to succeed. The Early Childhood Initiative, along with a grant through the McKnight Foundation, helps the 90 coalitions in more than 300 sites throughout Minnesota to coordinate activities to help young children in each region.

Those activities in Becker County and White Earth can be anything from preschool education for children to parent/grandparent/caregiver support, mental health awareness to parent-child relationship building.

“We are making a difference, and now can we make a bigger difference,” Rethwisch said is a goal for upcoming celebration on Jan. 23.

A celebration and gathering

“We are hoping people give feedback on a common direction where we have the greatest impact when serving families,” Darco said of the celebration and gathering.

Anyone in the community who wants to hear what’s going on with the initiative or give feedback on what needs to be focused on can attend the celebration. It is Thursday, Jan. 23, in M State’s conference room. A meal is served at 5:30 p.m., followed by a facilitated panel and discussion from 6-8.

Those who attend will have the opportunity to break into smaller groups to discuss what the initiative and local early childhood coalitions can do to better the children of the community.

A panel of statewide professionals in various fields, like medical and poverty, for example, will discuss what’s going on around the state, and then the small groups will talk.

Toward the end, moderator Elisa Korentayer will collect ideas and help provide some answers. Rethwisch said there will be answers that night already.

“By the end of the night, we will have identified the top two priorities and how to work on those priorities,” she said. One goal the two women think is important is pre-K to third grade education for children.

“Preschool children who are ready to begin school with the same opportunities (as all other children),” Darco said, is important.

Those children who may struggle need the tools to be as successful as their classmates.

They said they are both excited to see what the rest of the community says should be goals and focuses at the meeting.

“This is a gathering of the community to define how to have the greatest impact on the community and our children,” Rethwisch said.

“There are a lot of amazing things going on throughout the community. This is bringing them together,” Darco added.

Please RSVP for the Jan. 23 celebration by Thursday, Jan. 16, to Terri Darco at or 218-983-3285 ext. 1381, or to Fran Rethwisch at or 218-847-1385 ext. 2124.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.