Westmoreland Cultural Trust gets $300,000 to fund children's programs

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The Westmoreland Cultural Trust received a $300,000 grant from the PNC Foundation last week. A portion of the funding will support arts programming for more than 1,000 preschoolers in Westmoreland County. Other components of the partnership will be announced later, said trust president Michael Langer.

The funding is a part of Grow Up Great, a $350 million, multiyear, bilingual initiative PNC began in 2004 to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life. The initiative funding will be spread across several states in which the financial corporation has a significant presence.

The concept is comparable to that of a Head Start program addressing cultural arts, math and science, Mr. Langer said. "It's a program that has a very specific goal in mind and that we are happy to be a part of."

The trust will receive the grant in three equal distributions, this year and in 2013 and 2014.

"The biggest focus will be to reach out and find programming that fits into this category," Mr. Langer said. Programs, centered on the performing arts, will change each year.

Planning for such a young age group does create a challenge, Mr. Langer said, but PNC established the program because research showed this was the optimal age group to target for the best long-term gains.

Jim Balouris, Southwestern Pennsylvania market manager for PNC Bank, said arts education has been found to have crossover benefits to the sciences and verbal skills. In addition, children exposed to the arts early are more likely to continue interest into adulthood.

The initiative also provides complementary information to parents, caregivers and communities so they may prepare and offer context to participating children.

The mission of the Westmoreland Cultural Trust, a nonprofit organization, is to stimulate cultural and economic development in the county. It hosts more than 100 shows annually at The Palace Theatre, a Trust property.

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, focuses on early childhood education and community and economic development.

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Mary Thomas: mthomas@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1925.


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