Nearly 1,000 pre-K students and parents representing dozens of PHLpreK programs celebrated the end of the school year with a free morning of games and activities at Please Touch Museum on Friday.

The PHLpreK celebration was co-hosted by the Mayor’s Office of Education and the Office of the City Representative.

Mayor Jim Kenney stopped by to congratulate the students, and was joined by Councilman Derek Green, City Representative Sheila Hess, Please Touch Museum President and CEO Patricia Wellenbach, Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney, and PHLpreK Director Julie Beamon.

The morning’s activities highlighted the rich and diverse learning opportunities offered by Please Touch Museum, including a child-sized SEPTA bus, a rocket launch pad, and a new Parkopolis exhibit, which features an interactive life-sized board game that teaches math and science skills.

Launched in January 2017, PHLpreK is the city’s free, quality pre-K program funded by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax. The initiative has served over 2,700 students since its launch.

“A year of quality pre-K makes a world of difference in preparing students for academic success,” Kenney said. “We are excited that the students here today will have enhanced success in kindergarten and the many years ahead. In addition to helping thousands of students and their families, PHLpreK has also created hundreds of jobs and strengthened small businesses across the city. It’s a win-win for everyone, so we have a lot to celebrate today.”

Families can now enroll in PHLpreK for the 2018-2019 school year. Families should visit www.phlprek.org or call 844-PHL-PREK to find a participating program.

“We’ve received overwhelmingly positive feedback about the program from parents and caregivers,” said Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney. “It’s more than free pre-K; it’s quality education. We’re very proud of the impact we’ve had so far, and are excited to welcome new students and families in the fall. I think we’re going to see a lot of demand based on our early success, so I encourage families to sign up for next year as soon as possible.”

Please Touch Museum President and CEO Patricia Wellenbach joined Kenney during his tour of the event, and congratulated students and providers on behalf of the museum.

“Partnering with the City to host this year-end celebration of PHLpreK Success aligns with Please Touch Museum’s mission to provide children with experiences for learning through play that position them for success in the classroom, and in life,” Wellenbach said. “We are delighted to join with Mayor Kenney and the Office of Education to celebrate this important milestone as the children here today and around the city move up from pre-K and prepare to enter Kindergarten.”

Antoinette Davis, whose son Caleb is enrolled in PHLpreK at Spring Garden Academy, was one of several parents attending the event as a chaperone. Caleb, along with 1,200 other students, will move up to kindergarten in the fall.

“I’ve been able to watch Caleb grow and expand his capabilities through the program,” Davis said. “He comes home and explains what he’s learned in detail. It’s wonderful to see him excited about education. He’s not just ready for kindergarten; he’s ready to advance and excel.”

“We’re excited about this third year of teaming up with Please Touch Museum for a joint celebration with the Mayor’s Office of Education,” said City Representative Sheila Hess. “These PHLpreK students are the future of our City and we love watching their joy, energy and amazing creativity as they play and interact with the exhibits at this unique museum.”

Contact Johann Calhoun at newseditor@phillytrib.com or call at (215) 893-5739

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