Giving Kids a Bright Start

School bells are ringing, classes are full, and kids are off and running into another school year. Each child starts their day with a backpack full of supplies, a lunch made with care, and the confidence that their needs will be met everyday.

But what about the children who don't have what they need to excel? What about the 32,000 homeless children in Orange County, what will they do?

"At Project Hope Alliance, we see firsthand the impact of homelessness on our youngest clients," says CEO Jennifer Friend. "We know that homelessness in early childhood can lead to struggles with academic performance, classroom engagement, and social skills in elementary school. We also know that with the support of our community, children can overcome these obstacles."

Through Bright Start—the newest component to Project Hope Alliance's education program—Orange County's neediest children will receive the skills and knowledge they need to walk into the classroom and excel.

Paired with inspirational curriculum crafted by Every Monday Matters, Bright Start will bring each child a structured, assessment- and researched-based learning experience; the love, mentorship, and support of a caring volunteer; and, finally, serve to empower their families with skills and strategies to meet the needs of these early learners.

Bright Start mentors in training.

Bright Start mentors in training.

In its pilot stage, the Bright Start program will target 26 elementary-aged children. The organization provides each child with a laptop configured with industry-leading academic software, free built-in WiFi, and take-home materials. Through these tools, children are provided an adaptive learning experience that is individualized to their unique abilities and needs.

La Shawn and Sam of Team Kid organizing the computers that will go to our children.

La Shawn and Sam of Team Kid organizing the computers that will go to our children.

With a Project Hope Alliance volunteer mentor, students will engage with Every Monday Matters curriculum to deepen their understanding of their own self-worth, grow in awareness of social responsibility, and build a stronger sense of confidence. According to Friend, "Our goal is to have each child understand how much they matter in this world and to deeply appreciate how much they have to offer to the experience of those around them."

A Bright Start mentor and her mentee during a mentoring session.

A Bright Start mentor and her mentee during a mentoring session.

In bringing together these extraordinary partners to create Bright Start, Project Hope Alliance promises to spark an exciting and innovative approach to meeting the academic and socio-emotional needs of children experiencing homelessness.

"This is a special opportunity to not only contribute to the outstanding work Project Hope Alliance is doing, but to also connect those who may need to discover or may often forget how much and why they matter," says Matt Emerzian, CEO of Every Monday Matters.