OKOLONA – The only new direction Dr. Dawn Weed wants to carry BabySteps is up.
The new executive director of BabySteps said the organization is sound, the strategy is solid and the program does help parents get children ready for kindergarten.
“I am so excited to be part of this organization and look forward to working with both the board and the community,” said Weed. “BabySteps is making a difference in the lives of children and adults in Chickasaw County.”
A native of Chickasaw County, Weed and her husband currently live in Smithville. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi University for Women and her doctorate in Education Leadership from the University of Mississippi.
“The goal and mission of BabySteps is to make sure that young children from at-risk families are socially and educationally ready for entrance into kindergarten,” said Weed. “We do this in two primary ways: we train parents on ways to enhance their infants and preschoolers’ pre-literacy and language development skills; and we provide literacy-based enrichment activities for toddlers and pre-schoolers.”
The program was initiated by long-time Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, who became concerned about the low school achievement levels in his hometown of Okolona. His hope is not only to improve the test scores of the children once they enter school but also, by rallying all elements of the town around the academic success of its young children, to help to transform the racially-riven town into a community that values and actively supports learning.
“I want to meet with school and community leaders and see where we can help them and explain in detail what we offer,” said Weed. “I will also be involved in helping to write grants an obtain funding for BabySteps.”
The program, now funded by the Kellogg Foundation, currently reaches some 70 families.
Through partnerships with the Okolona School District, three early childcare centers, community service agencies, the National Council of Negro Women and other organizations, Baby Steps provides resources to parents with young children.
BabySteps is governed by an active board of directors that is involved with all aspects of the organization.
“We are so happy to have someone like Dawn come to us and join with us,” said Leah Ward, president and chairman of the BabySteps board of directors. “This program continues to make a difference in the lives of people in this community and Dawn will play a key role in that mission.”
Baby Steps was initiated in 2002 by Raspberry, with heavy infusions of his own money, as a way to encourage and support families in preparing children age 5 and under to enter kindergarten.
Raspberry, a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and native of Okolona, died last summer of prostate cancer.