VIDEO: Utica National, Johnson Park partnership to impact school readiness in Utica, NY


The Foundation and Utica National Insurance Group recently partnered to address school readiness in Utica, NY.

Utica National Insurance Group invested $100,000 from their fund at The Foundation for the startup of a drop-in center at Johnson Park Center focused specifically on preparing pre-school age children for kindergarten.

Currently, there are no consistent measurement processes to determine if children are ready for school. The Foundation is supporting a pilot project in Dolgeville and Herkimer BOCES pre-schools in order to address this need. The Johnson Park Project will act as a second pilot project for measurement.

What we do know is that by third grade we are able to gauge through passing English and Math test scores if a child will be academically successful through high school and beyond.

Here’s how our two counties’ third graders stacked up in 2014:

Percentage who passed English exam

  • Herkimer county: 21 percent
  • Oneida county: 24 percent
  • New York state: 33 percent

Percentage who passed Math exam

  • Herkimer county: 39 percent
  • Oneida county: 39 percent
  • New York state: 44 percent

Research shows children who do not have access to kindergarten preparation – whether because of poverty, lack of access, inadequate resources or parental guidance – have a significantly higher rate of failing these exams. Johnson Park Center’s program will cater directly to children born into poverty without access to the same opportunities as their middle- and upper-class peers.  Through individual tutoring, classroom time and home visits, the program will seek to level the playing field for these children as they enter kindergarten. Fifteen children and their parents have been accepted for this first year. A new facility with up-to-date technology, resources and books houses the program on the second floor of 26 Johnson Park