Representatives from 17 organizations, including Spring Valley Public Library, gathered at the office of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) in Owatonna recently to receive their Young Explorer Learning Systems.

This award, totaling $57,200, was made possible through SMIF's Early Childhood Initiative (ECI) and regional partner IBM Corporation, Rochester. SMIF's ECI is focused on providing resources so that children have a healthy start in life - by learning, achieving, and succeeding.

"We are pleased to be able to partner with IBM to provide these exceptional systems to encourage fun and learning through the use of technology," notes SMIF President and CEO Tim Penny. "We believe investing in our young children is a long-term strategy that will lead to a capable workforce."

The local library was among the 17 organizations selected to receive at least one Young Explorer Early Learning System, each valued at $2,600. The selections were based on a commitment to provide a trained adult and easy access for young children and their families to the learning systems.

The Young Explorers offer a fun and engaging platform from which teachers and child care providers can challenge young minds and integrate technology into the classroom while allowing children to explore at their own pace.

As part of its strategy to invest in economic growth in southern Minnesota, SMIF has supported early childhood efforts to make certain all children enter school fully encouraged, prepared, and supported for learning success. Over the past nine years, SMIF has invested $1.5 million annually for early childhood development initiatives.

SMIF has also established 21 community coalitions as part of the Minnesota Early Childhood Initiative. Each coalition is developing their collective early childhood vision and implementing local projects to strengthen early care and education for young children and their families.