JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Throughout her career, Installation Management Command (IMCOM) G9 Child Youth and School Services Chief of Child Development Programs Mary Ellen Pratt has traveled worldwide, visiting Army child development centers. However, she was never on a base when pre-kindergarten students graduated from a Strong Beginnings class - a program she helped create - until June 7, when Pratt attended the 2013 Strong Beginnings graduation ceremony at Cody Child Development Center on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

Visiting the CDC on JBM-HH and being in attendance at a Strong Beginnings graduation was a special moment for Pratt. "I got teary-eyed ... it was nice to be here, and I thought, 'Wow, this is so cool.' ... we did something good," she said.

"As the CYSS branch chief for the Army's child development program, I oversee the CDC's Family child care and school age program ... as such, Strong Beginnings comes under me. I've been chief of the program for 13 years; since the inception of Strong Beginnings," said Pratt, who wrote the manual on how to implement the program.

Strong Beginnings is an Army initiative which started as a pilot program in 2009 to help children transition from preschool to kindergarten, she explained. "The CDC here [when it was Fort Myer] was part of the pilot, with the first graduation in 2010."

Pratt said in developing the Strong Beginnings curriculum, leading experts in the field were contacted. "We adopted policies from the most widely-recognized, research-based state teaching curriculum company, Teaching Strategies. They developed the standards and are one of the best in the United States at what they do."

While developing the policies and procedures which govern Strong Beginnings, Pratt said the marketing message to military parents was, "It doesn't matter if you're assigned to Korea, Germany, or Fort Polk, Louisiana, and transferred elsewhere, your child will get the same, consistent program."

Pratt said the Strong Beginnings pre-kindergarten program is developmentally appropriate, with a focus in science, math and literacy. "Children learn about 100 sight words, they learn kindergarten etiquette skills so they know what to expect when they get there.

"It's an Army [Family] Covenant issue to support the service's Families. This [program] is tangible evidence the Army really cares, and we're helping get your child ready for kindergarten, whether you're deployed or not," said Pratt.

Page last updated Mon June 17th, 2013 at 10:26