How to help with childhood development |

How to help with childhood development

Butch Mazzuca

In yesterday’s commentary I addressed the need for transparency regarding the county’s budgeting process and early childhood development programs. I believe that early childhood development programs can be specific and measurable without costing the taxpayers an arm and a leg. To that end, the following are few ideas the Board of County Commissioners may want to consider:The first of these comes from Dr. Liza Klearman, a naturopathic physician who lives in Eagle. Dr. Klearman is the mother of a toddler and an infant and will soon be featured in a monthly column about wellness in the Eagle Valley Enterprise. (On a side note, Liza is a close member of my extended family, family. Howeer, her ideas stand on their own merit.)Dr. Klearman suggests that first and foremost, young families need infant-care, an item in precious short supply here in the valley. Her second idea is to have an indoor play-activity center or a children’s museum with age-appropriate activities for kids of all ages. Toddlers and older children need places to run and climb. Perhaps such an activity center could include a waterworks to play in or just float boats. It might also include an arts-and-crafts section and a place for kids to play musical instruments. Younger children need a place to play, especially during winter, so an indoor playground would be even better, perhaps with a retractable or removable bubble. Perhaps building an indoor field to be used for sports activities such as soccer, kick-the-can, dodge ball, or a ropes course could be considered. As an added benefit, this same indoor facility could be used or rented out for community events.Affordable health care for children is another big issue in the valley, and Dr. Klearman proposes that this community space be used a few days a month as a free, or a minimal charge, health-care clinic. She also indicated that she would volunteer her time a few days a month in such an endeavor, and felt that other physicians would embrace the opportunity to provide free health care for the disadvantaged in our community. (She also suggested that these volunteering physicians might get donations of certain medicines and vaccinations to address the healthcare needs of the uninsured citizens of the community.)While these are undeveloped notions, they have merit. But the larger question remains: How do you pay for these facilities? Though I (obviously) don’t work specifically in child development, as a father and active member of our community, I can offer a few suggestions:Perhaps the county could create an enterprise zone reducing property taxes for prospective entrepreneurs interested in pursuing some of these ideas. Or maybe the commissioners could offer a sales-tax incentive or authorize a one-time capital contribution to induce private enterprise to follow through on these yet inchoate ideas. But the common thread is one of offering inducements to private enterprise versus unnecessary taxation to the citizenry.Another idea I’m familiar with comes from Judy Zerafa, author of the first self-help book for children, “GO FOR IT!” Zerafa is the founder of the GO FOR IT! Foundation, a non-profit organization whose goal is to teach children how to succeed academically, in-terpersonally and later in life, economically.Studies indicate that less than 2 percent of the world’s population knows specifically what it takes to succeed. In the mid-1980s Zerafa interviewed 35 recipients of the Horatio Alger Award to uncover what these remarkably successful men and women knew that others seemed not to. What she discovered became the basis for her GO FOR IT! program in which elementary and middle school students are taught the “Seven Keys to Success”: 1) Building a positive attitude; 2) belief in one’s self; 3) developing life-enhancing habits; 4) making wise choices; 5) setting and reaching goals; 6) using creative imagination to accelerate goal achievement and problem solving; and 7) persistence.The ideal demographic for this program is third- through eighth-graders, but it can be used for all ages. The program uses training for all classroom teachers within a participating school, followed by in-class core training for the “Seven Keys to Success,” involving exercises and homework in which the students have the opportunity to earn awards while learning the seven keys. Finally, there is the parental aspect of this program, with a 90-minute overview of what the students are learning, also conducted by the Go For It! staff. Last year 38 percent of the students at a particular low-income Denver public school received the highest award – an enormous accomplishment for a population of socio-economically challenged students and families. The cost to enroll every student and teacher in the valley into this type of program would be about a third of what just one year’s tax would have been if Referendum 1A had passed.Obviously there’s a lot we can do for our kids that’s specific and measurable, using private and public funds that doesn’t add to our tax burden. It just needs a little creative thinking.I hope the county commissioners take these ideas and others into consideration before they make lapidary decisions regarding the implementation of any early-childhood-development programs. Butch Mazzuca, a local Realtor and ski instructor, writes a weekly column for the Daily. E-mail him at Vail Daily, Vail Colorado CO

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