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Action for Early Learning (AFEL)

Ensuring children’s success in school has to start with quality early childhood education. Drexel UCP supports this effort through the West Philadelphia Action for Early Learning Initiative (AFEL) – a collaboration of social service and education agencies with community stakeholders working to create an education support system for students and families in the West Philadelphia Promise Zone.

AFEL aims to build awareness about how high quality early childhood education increases children’s life-long success. In addition, AFEL works to improve the quality of childcare providers and links Pre-Ks to Kindergartens to ensure seamless transitions for families. AFEL also supports Pre-K and K-3 instruction with a strong emphasis on literacy so that children are better prepared for Kindergarten and reading by third grade. Through AFEL’s connection with Drexel UCP, School of Education and other university departments, AFEL is working to create a family support pipeline that provides quality educational experiences from cradle to career.

Funding for this initiative is made possible by support from the Lenfest Foundation, PNC Foundation, Vanguard Strong Start for Kids, William Penn Foundation, and the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL).

Ensure High Quality Early Childhood Education

AFEL works to increase families' access to high quality childcare and early childhood education centers. We help participating centers improve their quality rating in the Pennsylvania's Keystone STAR quality improvement rating scale. AFEL also works with childcare centers to improve their instructional quality with an emphasis on early literacy. Childcare centers who are part of the AFEL Alliance of Childcare Providers participate in on-site instructor coaching and training for center directors. Drexel’s Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships serves as a hub for trainings, workshops and family gatherings.

Build Family Partnerships

A team of neighborhood-based Family Ambassadors, trained as peer-to-peer mentors, connect with families in their own communities to share knowledge with parents, grandparents, and other caregivers about the importance of high quality early education and to support achievement of developmental milestones, all with a strong cultural understanding. Family Ambassadors attend community fairs to distribute information, facilitate workshops for caregivers and help us get books into the hands of neighborhood children.;

Support Kindergarten Readiness and Early Literacy

AFEL helps Pre-K and Head Start programs align their learning goals with those of neighborhood kindergartens to help ensure that children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. And because reading on grade level by the end of third grade is a critical education milestone, AFEL offers support to Pre-K through third grade teachers to help improve literacy instruction. AFEL also works with Drexel's A.J. Drexel Autism Institute to offer autism spectrum disorder screenings for children in the Promise Zone, and to provide support and training to childcare center directors, teachers, and parents to promote early intervention and detection of ASD.

Strengthen a Network of Neighborhood Partners

AFEL coordinates local neighborhood and citywide organizations and agencies to work together as a place-based system towards a shared set of quality early childhood education and family support goals. This collaborative team approach aligns AFEL families and partners and builds neighborhood capacity for a long-term, place-based approach to sustainability.

Key partners include:

  • Academy of Natural Sciences
  • Children's Literacy Initiative
  • Delaware Valley Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Drexel's School of Education
  • A.J. Drexel Autism Institute
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation - Philadelphia
  • Montgomery Early Learning Centers
  • Mantua Civic Association
  • Mayor's Office of Community Empowerment & Opportunity - Promise Zone Education Committee
  • A Running Start Campaign
  • People's Emergency Center
  • Read By Fourth Campaign
  • School District of Philadelphia
  • Southeast Regional Key
  • United Way