PNC Awards $6,000 to Johnson Square Academy Head Start Program


LIGHT Health & Wellness Comprehensive Services’ Johnson Square Academy has been awarded $6,000 by the PNC Foundation in recognition of the volunteer efforts of PNC employees Karen Burley, Seson Taylor-Campbell, April Harper, Angela McFadden, Lourdes Montes-Greenan, Franklin McNeil and Robin Chester.

The foundation’s program rewards employee volunteerism by presenting a grant to a child care center that’s assisted by employees.

“I’ve enjoyed volunteering all of my life, so when this came up I didn’t hesitate to do it,” Chester said. “Just the fact that I’m helping the community, these young children and the smiles on their faces… I have so much fun with them and I think my fun and smiles spread to the children.”

Johnson Square Academy serves children in Baltimore through its accredited preschool.

The academy provides a range of day and respite care for children ages 2-5 and their families with or without special needs, and who may require more comprehensive services.

Programs at LIGHT help facilitate the social, cognitive, and intellectual development of each child with individualized attention to meet their needs and training is also provided for parents on child development, medical care, and medication regiments.

Johnson Square Academy can use the funds in any way officials deem necessary, said Burley, PNC Financial Services Group assistant vice president of regional media relations.

PNC provided the $6,000 grant in support of its “Grow Up Great,” initiative, a $350 million multi-year bilingual program in early childhood education.

This year, PNC doubled the grant an employee, or groups of employees, can earn for a center after volunteering a set number of hours for efforts that began in 2014.

For teams who began volunteering in 2014, an individual grant is $2,000; a team of two to three employees who volunteer for 60 hours collectively can earn a $3,000 grant and four to 10 employees who volunteer for 100 hours collectively can earn a $6,000 grant for their center.

“I think most people when they’re considering working for an organization they think about what the organization is giving to the community and that influenced my decision to leave the Federal Reserve Bank after 16 years and come to work for PNC,” McNeil said. “The resources and materials they put toward financial education is great. It’s exciting to know that every Friday for six weeks, I’ll be going to work at Head Start. PNC has given us 40 hours a year to do that.”

Founded by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., PNC “Grow Up Great” program emphasizes the importance of the first five years of life, which research has shown is critical to long-term achievement, and provides innovative opportunities that assist families, educators and community partners to enhance children’s learning and development, according to PNC officials.

An investment in pre-K students makes good economic sense and plants the seeds for the dynamic workforce of tomorrow, Franklin added.

The program also has a Sesame Street component called “For Me, for You, for Later,” a continuing partnership between PNC and Sesame Workshop that encourages young children to manage their money by spending it wisely, saving some for a rainy day, and giving some away to charity.

“You go in with an agenda and a plan,” Franklin said. “The ‘For Me, for You, for Later’ involves Elmo teaching students about want versus need. Elmo is saving to buy a super stupendous ball that plays music.”

“Elmo has $3 but it cost $5. So, he’s sent out on Sesame Street to make money and when he’s about to make the purchase the Cookie Monster comes up and wants to borrow $1 so Elmo has a decision to make on whether he shares his money and if he does, he has to buy the next level down,” he said.

Ultimately, Elmo does give Cookie Monster the money and makes a purchase that’s not as expensive as what he set out to buy.

“These children really need to learn to expect what to expect out of life,” Chester said. “They need what is good food; they need encouragement; they need special attention. These kids see how you smile and how you’re being courteous and they thrive on that. When I get ready to leave, they want me to stay.”