When I retired 17 years ago, I knew I had to do something more than play golf, bridge or tennis. I needed to change the world.

Some of my earlier endeavors, including a stint as chair of the park board, president of Galveston Historical Foundation and a failed run for city council, didn’t quite reach that daunting goal, but presently I feel I just may attain that lofty objective.

Several years ago, I joined the board of Galveston Sustainable Communities Alliance, where I became painfully aware that we are failing our youngest residents. All students need an equal chance to succeed in school and it begins at a young age and in a stable, loving, nurturing environment. Not all children have that advantage.

I learned that children’s brains begin development in the womb and continue in early childhood. By age 3, their brains are 85 percent developed. If those brains receive positive stimulus, enrichment and caring they will most likely develop into productive adults.

But if they are raised in a toxic stressful environment it will derail a healthy development, reducing the ability to learn. I also know by age 3, a disadvantaged child will hear 30 million words less than their more affluent peers. When they both reach kindergarten, the more disadvantaged child will be behind and probably remain so. Can you imagine starting kindergarten being behind before your school career begins?

For those reasons and more, I have given several years of my retirement to help start the Moody Early Childhood Center, a year-round school that caters to Galveston children, ages 6 weeks to 3 years, of all economic and social backgrounds. It is a community experiment, a partnership between a volunteer board, a local governmental agency (Galveston Independent School District) and philanthropic organizations led by the Moody Foundation.

The Moody Early Childhood Center model has never existed that we know, but after one year, I can attest it is making a difference. Children that may never have had the opportunity to attend school before Moody Early Childhood Center are thriving there today. It is up to us to make certain that it continues.

In addition to an excellent early childhood learning experience, The center employs professional staff and counselors that work every day to assist our families that need counseling whether it is working with their child, filling out forms, or helping find jobs.

The center is just 1 year old. We have almost 300 children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old, following a curriculum, receiving the attention and understanding young children need. We now know what it takes to have a successful school and its programs, and it is expensive. It takes a village to raise a child and soon we are coming to our village to ask for your help to step up for our youngest residents.

We are making a difference and I am happy to say, I, with all of my Moody Early Childhood Center family, are changing the world a little one at a time.

Jeri Kinnear lives in Galveston.

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