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Another round of funding boosts education equity in Fairfield County

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Elise Amendola
/
AP

10 nonprofits will receive access to $400,000 worth of grants to eliminate educational disparities in Fairfield County.

This funding is from the Fairfield County Business Collaborative for Education Equity, which was established in August 2020 in partnership with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, a coalition of businesses with the goal of closing the opportunity gap.

2021 was the first year the collaborative distributed $400,000 worth of grants. Mendi Paca, president and CEO Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, said she hopes this year’s funds will build upon the work that was done last year especially when it comes to addressing food insecurity in schools.

“Nearly 85% of youth who received meals actually had improved access to fresh fruits and vegetables,” Paca said. "And nearly nine-in-10 expressed that they experienced less anxiety about food insecurity, which is huge.”

These grants will be used to close educational gaps in the Fairfield community by supporting more parent and youth engagements, providing more affordable access to quality early childhood education, and better preparing older students for college or to begin their professional careers.

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Another goal is to help both child care providers, families, and children recover from the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re looking at a point where we’re trying to rebuild that supportive infrastructure for families and kids in order to have an adequate number of providers and an adequate number of staff at providers, et cetera,” said Paca. “So that is one of the key reasons why this is the focal point for the collaborative.”

According to a recent survey by Child Care for Connecticut's Future, 10% of child care centers in the state have not reopened since the pandemic shut down.

On Oct. 27, the foundation unveiled a new strategy, Fairfield County Forward, that aims to close Fairfield's opportunity gap through direct research and engagement with the community. This strategy will attempt to end economic inequality in the county, increase incomes for Black and Latinx households, and better invest in healthcare, education, and housing for Black and Latinx communities.

“Fairfield County Forward is our commitment to addressing the root causes of inequities by seeking to dismantle the systems and structures that limit opportunities. It is a necessary strategy to increase our impact,” said Paca in a statement.

“We’re working closely with our community to understand and address the foundation of our county’s disparities, which are undeniably race-based,” she said. “And we’re rethinking the ways we invest in education, housing, health and workforce development to achieve greater racial equity and create a stronger and more thriving Fairfield County.”

The grantees of the $400,000 will be able to access these funds within the next two weeks.

Eric Warner is a news fellow at WSHU.