PNC Foundation grant creates Early Learning Academy at YSU

The Beeghly College of Education at Youngstown State University has been awarded a two-year, $150,000 grant from the PNC Foundation to develop the YSU Early Learning Academy powered by PNC Grow Up Great for early educators in Mahoning Valley.

PNC made the grant in support of PNC Grow Up Great, its bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life.

The YSU Early Learning Academy will conduct a dozen professional development and educational workshops on Saturdays for more than 100 area preschool instructors, specifically those working with the low- to moderate-income population.

“Research supports that lower-income children are at a higher risk of entering school with a deficiency in early vocabulary and literacy development, foundational math concepts, and the social skills needed for academic success, when compared to their higher-income peers,” said Kristen Italiano, YSU faculty member and coordinator of Project PASS, which aims to improve reading ability for Youngstown children.

The Academy will use research-based practices that align with community needs to support early learning for the most at-risk and underserved children in the community.

“By supporting the needs of preschool instructors, we can work as a community to close the achievement gaps and prepare all preschoolers for success in elementary school,” said Charles Howell, dean of the Beeghly College.

“For years, PNC has supported pre-K education in Youngstown through a variety of programs,” said Ted Schmidt, PNC regional president for Youngstown. “Through the Early Learning Academy, we will build on those efforts by providing professional development that will enable our early educators to grow and enhance their teaching techniques.”

The Early Learning Academy will provide strategies and instruction to teachers for improving school readiness, increasing language development and creating a socially supportive and safe environment. Each participant will receive materials and toolkits to take into the classroom.

The sessions will be taught in McKay Auditorium in Beeghly Hall on campus by Drs. Lauren Cummins and Patrick O’Leary, as well as other highly qualified faculty and instructors.

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group (, actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence. The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture. Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a bilingual $500 million, multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life. For more information, visit