Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) returns to Prescott
The free preschool program offers educational support for qualified children
October 1, 2020
PRESCOTT-There are more than 20 years of combined early childhood education experience making up the Prescott ECEAP program. Lead teacher Sofia Mercado, Assistant teacher Karlie Mathews, and Family Support Specialist Marina Cortez offer quality early childhood education for their second year in a row.
"The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP, is a whole child, comprehensive, family-focused preschool program, providing free services and support to eligible students," Mercado shared in an email, quoting the Educational Service District 123. "The goal of ECEAP is to help ensure all Washington children enter kindergarten ready to succeed."
The ECEAP program offers whole school day instruction, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., September through June. Currently, the ECEAP is using an online, distance learning model.
To qualify for the ECEAP program, children must be at least three years old, not yet five, and cannot be simultaneously enrolled in an Early Start Program. Children must also meet one of the following criteria to qualify for the program:
• A child must be approved by the school district for special education services under RCW 28A.155.020.
• Students with an Individual Education Program, or IEP, are automatically qualified.
• Students whose families meet low-income requirements specified for this program. Detailed qualifications can be found on Educational Service District 123's website, http://www.esd123.org.
Mercado, Mathews, and Cortez strive to create a fun learning environment. Hands-on activities like tie-dying t-shirts and making playdough, and science experiments like building lava lamps and making elephant toothpaste, are regular parts of the program. When times allow, the students even get out of the classroom, participating in enriching trips to children's museums and enjoying seasonal activities like trips to local pumpkin patches.
Lead teacher Mercado, a 2015 WHS graduate, finished the Early Childhood Education at Walla Walla Community College with an Associates Degree. Mercado went to work in the academic world as an assistant teacher and stepped up to lead in January of 2020. Assistant teacher Karlie Mathews graduated from Waitsburg High School in 2018. Mathews started as classroom support before promoting to an assistant teacher in January 2020. Cortez has been working in education off and on for more than 16 years, spending many of those years with Head Start and ECEAP programs in Walla Walla.
"(Cortez) left the field a couple of times, but she always comes back because she absolutely loves working with children and families," Mercado wrote.
Applications are available and can be picked up and dropped off at the Prescott School District's office.