ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) – A small device meant for 3- and 4-year-olds is having a big impact on their education before they ever get into kindergarten.
It’s called an ApSeed Seedling, and it teaches kids basics like numbers, shapes, and colors.
The seedlings are given away to kids at no cost. The Salisbury businessman who came up with the idea says the program is now rapidly expanding across the Carolinas because it’s a proven success.
“It started with 60 children in Rowan County. It’s now pushing toward 25,000 children,” Greg Alcorn said. “We’ve got North and South Carolina, New York City, we have some head starts up there doing terrific and we’re in a couple of African countries. Ideally, we want to do all of North Carolina, ideally, we want to do all of South Carolina, and then expand from there. We have big dreams.”
That’s 25,000 devices distributed free of charge to teach at-risk preschoolers their letters, numbers and other basics expected for kindergarten readiness.
Alcorn is the CEO of Global Contact Services, which he started in 2001. GCS has served retail, insurance, financial and government clients for over 15 years. It provides clients with outsourced staffing and management for customer interactions.
According to ApSeed, in one North Carolina school district alone, preschoolers attending programs at Title 1 (high poverty and high opportunity) schools that used their seedling recently showed a 131% improvement in literacy skills in just nine months.
“It just helps our children be overall ready for kindergarten,” Dione Adkins, the CEO of the Salisbury-Rowan Community Agency and the Price Head Start where 3- and 4-year-olds look forward to their time with the seedlings, said.
“The children are actually working on their numbers, word and letter recognition, and just really emphasizing what they’ve learned throughout the year,” Adkins said. “The ApSeed has been a wonderful addition to our learning objectives.”
Using his business background, Alcorn is pushing to expand the program. The Apseed Seedlings are distributed to disadvantaged children in schools, daycares and any agency that serves pre-K children.
“To have the satisfaction that it’s working, that we’re preparing children for kindergarten, that keeps us going at exponential speed,” Alcorn added.
“For disadvantaged children, many of them don’t have access to resources and this is that resource that provides a very simple approach to allow those children the opportunity to have access to learning those skills before they come into kindergarten,” ApSeed executive director Dr. Julie Morrow said.
Morrow spent more than 32 years in public education and worked with Alcorn when the program first came to Rowan-Salisbury Schools.
“Anybody that serves disadvantaged children, we provide that opportunity for them,” Morrow added.
The program has expanded this year to Ashe, Buncombe, Davie, Duplin, Granville, Iredell, New Hanover, Pender, Rockingham and Yadkin counties, and in the city of Lexington, N.C. Head Start programs in Vance, Franklin and Warren counties are also using the program.
Seedlings have also been distributed in five South Carolina school districts.
Alcorn believes his business background gives the program something that stands out when it comes to what he calls a “generational return on investment.”
“The uniqueness of the business model is that we take a business approach to it,” Alcorn said. “It is to have those children prepared for kindergarten and then be a terrific person in society.”
Each device costs $147.50, but they are distributed free of charge thanks to public funding, foundations, and individual donors.
For more information about ApSeed or to get a Seedling, go to the program’s website at apseed.org.