Partnerships between several local organizations have led to the establishment of Early Learning Pathway, a strategic plan to make connections and collaborations for student success from pre-birth to third grade in Cambria and Somerset counties. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Office of Child Development and Early Learning, Greater Johnstown School District, Central Cambria School District, Blacklick Valley School District, Northern Cambria School District and the United Way of the Laurel Highlands have endorsed the framework for the Early Learning Pathway, along with other community stakeholders. 

According to Matt Spangler, community relationship manager for United Way, the Early Learning Pathway affords families the opportunity to access resources specific to the development of their child or children while following a linear path of providers and servers. 

“Essentially, the ELP keeps the family and their child or children within the confines of receiving structured, targeted assistance from one program to the next,” Spangler said. 

The Early Learning Pathway aims to streamline the switch between service providers for families and their children enrolled in early child development programs and improve the overall chance that children can grow in an environment supportive of their social, emotional and economic development. 

“The importance of the ELP is directly rooted in the necessity to have coordinated referrals and collaborations between programs along the Pathway,” Spangler added. 

The United Way and other stakeholders who formed the Early Learning Pathway have strategically identified organizations and providers who primarily serve families for various reasons, with a goal of building a referral network including medical providers, pediatricians, child advocacy centers, hospitals, the court systems, early childcare providers, school districts and other organizations. 

“This ‘referral network’ would essentially guide families to enter programs along the pathway where it would be applicable,” Spangler said. 

The United Way is educating stakeholders and providers to be part of this referral network or implement the pathway model, Spangler said. 

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​Jocelyn Brumbaugh is a reporter for the Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter @JBrumbaughTD.

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