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Dukes visits Family Tree

Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, reads to a group of pre-kindergarten students Monday at The Family Tree in Albany in recognition of Georgia Pre-K Week.

Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, reads to a group of pre-kindergarten students Monday at The Family Tree in Albany in recognition of Georgia Pre-K Week.

ALBANY, Ga. -- A group of pre-kindergarten students at The Family Tree, the child development center operated by Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, listened eagerly as a state representative read to them Monday.

State Rep. Winfred Dukes, D-Albany, was one of many legislators throughout Georgia that read and interacted with the state's pre-k students on Monday in recognition of Georgia Pre-K Week -- which is taking place this week.

While there, Dukes received a tour of The Family Tree, and was given an opportunity to meet some of the pre-k students.

Toward the end of his visit, he sat with a group of pre-k children and read "Splat the Cat." This followed by interactions with the group, most notably when the representative asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Some of the responses included: "Ballerina," "Mermaid," "Fireman," "Soldier" and "Cheerleader."

His visit, in part, was to demonstrate the need for a pre-k program in Georgia.

"I hope they (the children) enjoyed it as much as I did," Dukes said following his visit. "It is very important that we get to kids early. By the time they get to school age, most of their words have already formed. It provides a lot of benefits down the road.

"The things we fight for (in the General Assembly) have a different relevance when we get to see it for ourselves. It's really second to none."

Family Tree Director Beverly Waddell re-emphasized that point by saying it is important for legislators to understand what the money is going toward.

"Quality for children is important," she said. "Research shows that early education benefits children later in life.

"We are so pleased that Representative Dukes took the time to come here so that we can thank him."

While the child development center at The Family Tree is exclusively for children of Phoebe employees, the pre-k program at the facility is open to everyone because it operates on state funding.

There are 66 slots in The Family Tree's pre-k program.

Georgia Pre-K Week is being hosted by Voices for Georgia's Children, which provides research-based information, measures, collective voices and proposed legislation to help guide decision-makers when it comes to establishing legislation involving the state's children.

In all, there are more than 3,900 pre-k classrooms in Georgia's 159 counties.