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How Bright & Early DuPage was Key to Successful Early Childhood Education in Glen Ellyn

San San and Soe Myint* left their small village in Myanmar (formerly Burma) to escape cultural persecution and start a new life in Glen Ellyn with their three young children. One day, Jeanine Woltman, coordinator for the Glenbard Early Childhood Collaborative (GECC), who has been working with the young couple, arrived at their tiny two-bedroom apartment and noticed San San animatedly reading a picture book to her two-year-old daughter, Chesa. San San explained she had learned about the importance of reading to her daughter through a parent education program GECC enabled her to attend. GECC is one of many collaboratives in DuPage County funded by Bright & Early DuPage, an initiative of DuPage Foundation. San San’s story illustrates the positive impact Bright & Early DuPage is having in the Glenbard community.


All Children Birth to Age 8 Can Take Advantage
Woltman said GECC uses Bright & Early DuPage grant funding to educate parents and help pay for transportation and translators, among other services. GECC helps San San and Soe Myint, along with many others in the Glenbard community, learn to be better parents which give their children more of an opportunity for educational success when they enter school. The spark for San San’s increased interest in reading to Chesa was keynote speaker Dr. Dana Suskind, a surgeon who performs cochlear implants at the University of Chicago. Suskind’s book, Thirty Million Words: Building A Child's Brain, documents Suskind’s research on the importance of vocabulary in the development of youngsters.

The program, offered through Glenbard Parent Series, resonated strongly with San San and Soe Myint. They want the best for their children, even as they struggle with resources and are still learning English, despite being fluent in several other languages. Thanks to funding from Bright & Early DuPage, through GECC, Woltman is working to connect the couple with resources for all three of their children, knowing that birth through 3 years old is the most critical developmental years.


Parents, Even Those Lacking Resources, Want the Best for their Children
The natural instincts of parenting—things like babbling to and talking face-to-face with babies and providing gentle physical care—are the first learning experiences for children. Studies show children’s brains develop even more when children have experiences like reading, playing, and preschool. But many parents aren’t aware of childhood brain development.


Barriers to Success
Families like San San’s often find massive barriers to something as simple as enrolling in preschool. Finding and enrolling in a preschool can be complicated. Language barriers stand in the way. Transportation to and from the preschool is an issue. Accessing school supplies is problematic. Healthcare is also an issue. The fear for many families is real.

And, with the COVID-19 pandemic raging, access to technology is an enormous barrier to continued remote learning and development with a trained teacher. And yet, the people and children facing the largest hurdles to accessing early childhood education are the ones who could most benefit.


Bright & Early DuPage Supports GECC and Other Collaboratives in the County
Bright & Early DuPage’s mission is to build sustainable, coordinated, local early childhood systems that actively work to increase access to quality education and support for children and families with limited access to resources.

Community by community, Bright & Early DuPage is engaging and uniting local organizations, like GECC, and individuals in collaboration to build awareness for and facilitate access to early childhood education and support services for DuPage children and their families. Bright & Early DuPage also serves as a voice for early learning and child-friendly policies at all levels of government.


Everyone Benefits
Bright & Early DuPage is funded by philanthropists and donors as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization through gifts to DuPage Foundation. Volunteers guide their work through an advisory committee with tireless energy, expertise, and skills in—not to mention deep knowledge of—early childhood education, as well as a boundless passion. Bright & Early DuPage has a vision that every DuPage child will be ready to succeed in kindergarten. That makes school better for all students. Fantastic schools attract families who want and need their children to have the best education possible. That in turn makes living in a community like Glen Ellyn an enjoyable, safe, and beautiful home where everyone can thrive.

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