JUNEAU - Nearly eighty individuals gathered at Project Playground on Saturday, July 17 to dedicate Alaska's first Born Learning Trail. The ribbon cutting was supplemented with a free hot dog picnic, short speeches and lots of happy-faced children.
Speakers included Deputy Mayor Randy Wanamaker who spoke on behalf of the city, Joy Lyon who addressed the crowd representing the Association for the Education of Young Children encouraging parents to supplement verbal exchanges with their children to include non-directive speech, Gina Luckey from Conoco Phillips who said they were delighted to help support families in Juneau and proud to be a part of this addition to Project Playground, a project they had also invested in, and Katherine Eldemar representing both Sealaska and United Way when she stated how important it was to build the community through strong families.
United Way Board member and organizer Heather Swanson introduced Kueni Maake, 2010 Early Childhood Educator of the Year who then cut the ribbon. Children and adults then enjoyed a lovely picnic, free bubbles and sidewalk chalk from AEYC, coloring pages and an opportunity to play.
Other dignitaries that attended included Jonathan Anderson from the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and United Way Board of Directors Ben Coronell, Mark Bryan, and Sheri Croll.
United Way Worldwide's Born Learning initiative created a series of informative and engaging signs that encourage parents and caregivers to interact with preschoolers in a healthy, fun way that also encourages early learning, helping kids to enter school ready to learn.
This year, United Way of Southeast Alaska mobilized around early literacy. The Born Learning Trail was proposed to Conoco Phillips and Sealaska Corporation who donated the bulk of the funds for the trail but there were also several small grants that made it all come together from the Moose Lodge, Valley Paint, Costco, the City and Borough of Juneau, Breeze In, and McDonalds that helped to complete the project. The $2,500 project added to the already $16,000 that has been allocated to the Association for the Education of Young Children and SAGA for early literacy programs throughout Southeast Alaska. SAGA's AmeriCorps volunteers helped to install the signs at the Project Playground area in the Twin Lakes Park earlier this year under the careful guidance of United Way volunteer Jim Becker.