County told how to help kids learn

Debbie Russell, manager of resource development and communications for the Hampton Healthy Families Partnership, chats with guests Thursday morning at the United Way Success by Six luncheon at the Savannah Grande.

Published: Friday, July 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, June 30, 2005 at 11:51 p.m.


By the numbers

Alachua County statistics

  • 2,000 babies are born each year.
  • 600 cases of domestic abuse reported.
  • 1,500 incidents of crime or violence in public schools.
  • 4,000 children need mental health services; only 45 percent of those actually receive them.
  • A growing percentage of families are headed by a single parent.
  • One out of three ninth-graders will not finish high school in the normal time.
  • 40 percent of fourth-graders score below the national median reading level, even more below the median in mathematics.
  • 22 percent of the county's children live in the full federal definition of poverty.
    - United Way of North Central Florida To get involved: To get involved AT A GLANCE
  • United Way has scheduled a Success by 6 task force meeting July 14, 10:30 a.m. to noon in the downtown headquarters library. Public invited.
  • For more information, contact Julie Dayvault at 333-0854 or JDayvault@united
  • To learn more about Success by 6, check the Web site, www.united

  • When Debbie Russell began describing life in Hampton, Va., in 1990, many of the 200-plus community leaders gathered at Savannah Grande in Gainesville on Thursday nodded their heads in recognition.
    Hampton, a city of 150,000 people, had been hit with a double whammy: a recession and cuts in military expenditures. The city was forced to operate with fewer resources, while at the same time, more people were demanding community services.
    "We were dealing with social problems that didn't respond to 'quick-fix' solutions," Russell told those gathered for a lunch meeting sponsored by the United Way of North Central Florida. "We were plagued with high spending on troubled youth and had very little to show for it."
    It was 1991 when Hampton chose to implement a partnership of government agencies, community programs and business or private investors they called the Hampton Healthy Families Partnership.
    Their goal: To provide whatever tools were necessary to support all children from birth to the age of 5, assuring that when they entered school, they would be ready to learn.
    Russell, who was named manager of resource development and communications for the program, said that within one year, "services were on the street."
    The approach that worked for the youngest residents of Hampton may have applications here, officials with United Way believe.
    This year, they have launched a new initiative called Success by 6, designed to ensure that every youngster entering kindergarten in Alachua County comes to school prepared to learn.
    Hampton, they say, provides measurable proof that collaboration among agencies and service providers can work.
    A survey in 2002 demonstrated that of 35,000 kids under the age of 19 in the Virginia community, 31,000 had been reached through at least one Healthy Families program, according to Russell.
    Incidence of child abuse and neglect had been reduced by 26 percent, while statewide, the reduction had been only 4 percent.
    "Alone we can do so little, but together we can do everything," she said.
    Alachua County Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said he would help lead the Success by 6 initiative in Gainesville, telling the audience, "We are going to address the root of the problem in this community."
    Karen Bricklemyer, CEO of United Way of North Central Florida, said a task force will hold its initial meeting on July 14 at the downtown library. Anyone interested in taking part in the campaign is invited to attend.
    Diane Chun can be reached at (352) 374-5041 or

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