Grant helps place backpacks for preschoolers 

Published 8:16 am Thursday, March 23, 2017

A $149,000 grant is helping “pipe dreams” for preschool educators in Boyle County come true.

The $149,000 Preschool Partnership Grant, awarded by the Kentucky Department of Education, is funding a huge array of projects for the Boyle County Preschool program and the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center.

About $10,000 of the funding is going to a unique project: In April, about 500 animal backpacks will be available to young children ready to enter preschool.

Email newsletter signup

“We wanted to reach more families of preschool-aged children … (those) materials … will be dropped off at the Boyle County Health Department and pediatricians’ offices,” said Libby Suttles, director of Wilderness Trace Child Development Center. “While a child is waiting to be seen, the parent can get them this cool activity kit.”

The bags will include a toothbrush and toothpaste, books, cups, eating utensils, growth chart, ball and other developmental activities.

“There are a lot of useful things to take home — it’s very health-play oriented. Lots of things to keep them busy while they’re there and it all is in this cute backpack,” she said.

The bags also include information on area preschools and how to enroll.

“We serve a broad and rural community. I think it’s sometimes challenging for parents to know what resources are available. We hope this will be a meaningful gift and also provide them information that will be life-changing,” Suttles said.

Kendra Peek/
Libby Suttles, director of Wilderness Trace Child Development Center, left, and Jenna Blair, preschool director at the Boyle County Schools, right, worked together to secure a grant benefitting the two programs, and children throughout the county.

The bags will be available at the health department and local pediatricians’ offices beginning around mid-April through the end of the month, said Jenna Blair, director of the Boyle County preschool program. Suttles explained that students from Centre College will help prepare the bags.

Thanks to the money from the grant, which arrived in November, there have been several other opportunities for the two programs.

They include something as simple as teachers being able to purchase supplies that haven’t been available before.

Blair said the preschool and Wilderness Trace teachers haven’t ever been able to just order the things they need to provide for the kids. “That’s what this grant allowed us to do, supply our classrooms.”

“It’s been one of the best grants ever,” Suttles said.

Jennifer Kieran, a speech therapist at Wilderness Trace, was able to attend a national conference in Philadelphia thanks to the grant. Kieran belongs to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and it was the first time she was able to attend the organization’s national conference in the 19 years she has been at Wilderness Trace.

“It was like I was going to Paris — it was that much excitement for me,” Kieran said. “We don’t always have the funding for me to do the top conferences.”

The grant has also enabled Wilderness Trace to purchase more  hands-on materials and books. 

“We were able to buy several thousand dollars worth of books for the kids, which included bilingual, different language, non fiction, fiction, sensory … hands-on materials for the children,” Blair said.

“After one year, sometimes materials get a little torn. It’s so tough to find the funds to replenish, and this grant met a need for both of our programs,” Suttles said.

It has also allowed for some additional STEM-based materials. It allowed Boyle County to extend a preschool teacher to an all-day position, offering working parents an “opportunity to send their child all day,” Blair said.

Also, the grant funded an additional education consultant at Wilderness Trace, who provides small group intervention.

The funding also enabled “several thousand dollars worth of scholarships” to be set up for students.

“Close to $56,000 of the grant money (went to scholarships) toward children who could not afford preschool but did not meet the income eligibility requirements,” Blair said. “We were able to provide a scholarship, either at Wilderness Trace or at Boyle County, whatever fits their need.”

“These are things that are pipe dreams — they have become a reality,” Suttles said. “This grant was kind of like our wildest dreams.”

The Kentucky Department of Education has announced plans to offer an extension grant, something “they have never offered before,” Blair said. It would enable them to continue the impact of the current grant, she said.

“When we were writing this, we mentioned ‘How we are going to sustain staff?’ ‘How are we going to sustain just being able to continuously provide for our kids?’ Tier 3 is coming out,” Blair said. “If we could get that grant, that would be huge.”

“The impact is just immeasurable, in my opinion,” Suttles said.

Follow Kendra Peek on Twitter, @knpeek.


To register your child for preschool, contact:

• Jenna Blair at the Boyle County Schools via phone at, (859) 481-2534 or (859) 236-6634; via email at; or visit the district’s website at,

• Andrea Craft at the Danville Independent Schools via phone at, (859) 936-8575

• Libby Suttles at the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center via phone at, (859) 236-0878; or via the website at

Kendra Peek/

Libby Suttles, director of Wilderness Trace Child Development Center, left, and Jenna Blair, preschool director at the Boyle County Schools, right, worked together to secure a grant benefitting the two programs, and children throughout the county.

Kendra Peek/

Photo submitted
Wendy Ross at the Woodlawn preschool program discusses counting money to purchase items.

Photo submitted
Susan Petitt, with the Junction City Preschool program, discusses determining if objects are magnetic with Charlie Davis.

Kendra Peek/
Cady Dezarn, left, and Alexa Cummins, right, two students at Wilderness Trace Child Development Center, show off the backpacks that will be available for children of Boyle County at local pediatrician’s offices and the Boyle County Health Department. Included in the backpacks will be activities for kids and families, as well information on how and where to enroll children into preschool through the Boyle County Schools, Danville Independent Schools and the Wilderness Trace Child Development Center.