press release

First Lady Marsha Barbour and Early Childhood Development Experts Launch ChevronTexaco-Funded Pilot Education Program

$650,000 ChevronTexaco grant to promote community standards for early childhood education

JACKSON, Miss., Dec. 14, 2004 -- Mississippi First Lady Marsha Barbour today joined early childhood development experts and ChevronTexaco representatives to launch Excel by Five, a community-based educational program designed to improve a child's overall well-being by age 5. Funded with a $650,000 grant from ChevronTexaco, the program will be piloted in Cleveland, West Point, Petal and Pascagoula.

Excel by Five sets forth a variety of standards, including parent training, community participation, child care and health, to help communities focus on supporting pre-kindergarten children and their families. The program certification process also identifies available resources and existing best practices to help Excel by Five–certified communities reach the goal that their children be ready to learn when they start school at age 5.

"ChevronTexaco recognizes the economic, quality-of-life and educational benefits related to early childhood education and development," said First Lady Marsha Barbour. "Our children – and ultimately the entire state – will reap these benefits as a result of the company's further financial investment in Mississippi with this generous grant. The company's actions underscore the important role the private sector employers have in encouraging community and economic development."

While Excel by Five was developed by a collaborative effort of numerous state and private organizations, Mrs. Barbour also recognized that ChevronTexaco initiated the program concept three years ago and then provided leadership to organize and develop the program.

"ChevronTexaco is privileged to help develop and fund a program that first benefits our children and helps communities build capacity to deliver long-term positive educational and economic benefits," said ChevronTexaco Pascagoula Refinery general manager Roland Kell. "It is clear that the right early childhood experiences set the stage for life-long success – in the classroom and beyond."

The Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian, with a $35,000 contribution, is also providing funding to conduct the two-year pilot program. "Excel by Five, with its strong emphasis on community volunteerism, challenges leaders to examine the state of early childhood education and care in their communities and then to apply specific standards to make improvements," said Tom Waycaster, Phil Hardin Foundation vice president for educational programs and research.

ChevronTexaco and the Phil Hardin Foundation awarded the pilot-program grants to Mississippi State University's National Center for Rural Early Childhood Learning Initiatives, which will manage the Excel by Five program and evaluate it as a possible statewide program.

Center director, Cathy Grace, Ed.D., and her staff, who worked with ChevronTexaco and a diverse volunteer work group of early childhood service providers to develop the program, will provide on-the-ground support to help the four communities during the certification process. "The program is designed to give communities and those responsible for early child care and education a structured set of achievable steps toward Excel by Five certification, regardless of the size of the community," said Dr. Grace.

Mrs. Barbour said Excel by Five's success will be ultimately determined by community support and participation. "Early childhood programs are key to preparing our children to learn, thrive and become productive citizens. Fundamental to success, however, is the involvement of parents, families, educators, caregivers, employers, social service organizations, and the public and private sectors," she said. "Supporting young children in a thoughtful and caring way could be the most important thing any of us will ever do. That's how critical it is. If we all work together, we can get this right."

The First Lady and others involved with Excel by Five are traveling on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to Cleveland, Petal, West Point and Pascagoula to announce the early childhood education initiative.

Updated: December 2004