PreK-1 (copy)

Kynlee Baine (left) and Joel Thompson (right) play with wooden blocks at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Jeffersonville in this file photo from February of 2022. They were part of the On My Way Pre-K program.

SOUTHERN INDIANA — Applications have opened for On My Way Pre-K in Indiana.

Indiana’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning announced Monday that applications are available for the grant program, which provides free preschool access to 4-year-old children from eligible lower-income families. 

Courtney Penn, director of the Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning, said the program offers free, high-quality education for children. On My Way Pre-K providers range from public schools to ministry programs. 

She said more than 6,200 children were enrolled in On My Way Pre-K in 2022, and that record number is expected to increase this year.

“The Purdue University long-term study released last year showed that children who attend On My Way Pre-K are better prepared for school and that the benefits continue well into elementary school," she said. "As we enroll an even larger group of children, we know more will be better prepared to succeed throughout their school years.”

There are 21 On My Way Pre-K providers in Clark County and 16 in Floyd County. There are 1,055 On My Way Pre-K programs across the state.

On My Way Pre-K started in 2015, and it expanded to a statewide program in 2019.  It is operated by the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration.

Penn said the state "really values the importance of this timeframe in a child's life in growth and development." 

The program helps children with social, emotional and cognitive development.

"The environments are set up for learning and engagement," she said. "They can also expect teacher-child interactions with their child that will also be very conducive to them being as prepared as possible for kindergarten and then also partnering with the families so parents can expect to be engaged in the process."

Penn said she is excited to see the growth of the On My Way Pre-K program over the years, calling it a "huge win" for the state. 

She notes that some children are able to receive free childcare through the state's Child Care and Development Fund, a limited eligibility program, but On My Way helps bridge the gap for families who do not qualify for that program. 

"The exciting part, overall, is increasing access and capacity for families, to see more families and childcare providers willing to engage in this space," she said. 

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