Count Basie Center receives $10k grant from United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties to facilitate school readiness programs


(RED BANK – DEC 19) The Count Basie Center for the Arts has received a $10,000 School Readiness grant from United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, allowing the nonprofit Basie Center to launch a pilot program to engage parents, grandparents and caregivers of preschool students in Red Bank and Freehold boroughs.

“For more than a decade, the Count Basie Center has built extensive partnerships with area school districts, with Basie teaching artists working directly in public school classrooms to provide arts enrichment,” said Samantha Giustiniani, Director of Education and Outreach, Count Basie Center for the Arts. “In partnership with United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, the Basie was able to expand these efforts by giving parents and caregivers in the Freehold and Red Bank boroughs tools and strategies to engage their children in creative ways.”

United Way of Monmouth and Ocean County President and CEO Timothy Hearne (center) presents the Basie with a $10k School Readiness grant. Pictured from L-R: Basie Executive VP Izzy Sackowitz, Education VP Yvonne Scudiery, Hearne, Basie Development VP Maria D. Sorensen and grant writer Heather Keefe.

With the United Way grant, the Basie is utilizing the creative teaching strategies of its mindALIGNED program to nurture “back and forth” interactions among students and their caregivers. mindALIGNED, a collective impact initiative spearheaded by the Basie Center, aims to increase access to the arts, encourage arts participation and create arts-engaged schools and communities.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Count Basie Center for the Arts to offer a comprehensive school readiness program to local families,” said Timothy Hearne, President and CEO of United Way of Monmouth and Ocean Counties. “As early as 18 months of age, low-income children begin to fall behind in vocabulary development and other skills critical for school success. Research shows that learning begins long before a child enters kindergarten, so it is crucial to empower families to nurture these skills for their children.”

The goal of the United Way school readiness grant is to equip parents, caregivers and providers with the information, tools and supports needed to address early literacy, social-emotional-cognitive development, and the health determinants of early school success for their children.

For the Basie Center, it was an opportunity to extend the reach of mindALIGNED by developing bilingual educational materials and hosting family nights at the schools, focused on author Marcus Pfister’s beloved book, The Rainbow Fish, as well as the Hans Christian Andersen classic, The Ugly Duckling.

After delving into The Rainbow Fish with their teachers and Basie teaching artists, preschoolers attended a live Basie Center production of the title in October. A second live experience, focused on The Ugly Duckling, will commence in early 2019, culminating with an onstage production at the Basie’s historic Red Bank theater in March.