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SD Town a Model of Early Childhood Education's Power to Unite

Children at M&M Day Care in Huron are among those benefiting from the use of early childhood education to integrate refugees from Myanmar into the community. (M&M Day Care)
Children at M&M Day Care in Huron are among those benefiting from the use of early childhood education to integrate refugees from Myanmar into the community. (M&M Day Care)
June 6, 2017

HURON, S.D. – The small town of Huron in East Central South Dakota has become a heartwarming example of how early childhood education can bring a community together.

Nearly a decade ago, Dakota Provisions began recruiting refugees from Myanmar to work in its turkey processing plant in Huron.

As the influx of this new population started, United Way Executive Director Rhonda Kludt and other members of the community in Huron realized they had an opportunity to welcome these immigrants. So, the United Way started the Preschool Partnership Program with the local school district and got its children into preschools around town.

"We knew that if those children started their learning experience with other children in the community, they would learn together and grow together and friendships would begin," she explains. "And a lot of our existing preschools were not full, they were not at capacity because preschool is expensive."

United Way made sure every family that wanted their child in preschool was able to afford it and integrated them into the seven existing preschools and local Head Start program.

Now, Huron looks a lot different than it used to: 46 percent of the town's school population is culturally diverse.

Kludt says the community has welcomed with open arms the displaced people from Myanmar, and the effort was led in large part by bringing education to the young children of the immigrants.

"When our community is well-educated, it benefits everyone," she says. "And our board members often say, 'I want the children living next door to me to have a good education.'"

Kludt adds that it took the work of organizations all around town, and says it's a model that can be replicated anywhere.

"I've often said if a little community like Huron with 12,000 people can do this, any community can do it," says Kludt.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD