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The University of Alabama

UA Wins $2.2 Million Grant to Improve School-Readiness, Family Well-Being in Head Start

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — More than 500 Head Start pre-schoolers across seven West Alabama counties and their families will directly benefit from a $2.2 million grant awarded to a group of University of Alabama faculty members.

“The grant seeks to improve the school readiness of Head Start preschoolers in West Alabama and the overall well-being of their families,” said Dr. Ansley Gilpin, UA assistant professor of psychology and one of five University researchers involved in the project.

The grant was provided by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

Following the implementation of the program and a review of its effectiveness, the efforts could serve as a national model for Head Start programs, Gilpin said. UA researchers will pool their findings along with researchers from Northwestern, the University of Oregon and the University of Southern California.

“This is a great opportunity for UA and for the state to make a difference in our national Head Start preschool initiative,” Gilpin said.

The UA researchers, including Dr. Caroline Boxmeyer, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral medicine; Dr. Jason DeCaro, associate professor of anthropology; and Dr. John Lochman, professor and Saxon Chair of Clinical Psychology; along with Jan Brakefield, assistant professor of consumer sciences, will provide classroom and family-based curriculum.

The classroom curriculum, known as Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, or PATHS, was developed at Penn State and focuses on creating a positive classroom environment, teaching children how to appropriately control their emotions, learn appropriate classroom behavior and think through difficult situations.

The parent curriculum, based on the Coping Power parent program, will help parents manage the stress of parenting and understand ways of supporting their child’s social and emotional development at home. The researchers will also provide the parents job skills and financial management training.

“We will measure the effects of the services provided on children’s school readiness, development and overall family well-being into elementary school,” Gilpin said.

The training is expected to begin in August 2014.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.