The initiative, known as South Mississippi Pre-K Forward Program, is one of 72 pre-schools in the running. Pre-kindergarten is the transition some four-year-olds get to experience before they walk into an actual kindergarten classroom. In pre-k, children get ahead of the game by learning to count, spell, and behave in a class setting. Gulfport Academy Executive Director, Cynthia Walker, believes pre-k is the foundation for kids’ educational success. Walker says, "We need to educate our children early so their school years are more successful than they have been before." Kelly Monahan, a pre-k teacher, says, "It's just one more step to better the education of our little folks in Mississippi. This is an opportunity I wish my children could have had." South Mississippi Pre-K Forward is a non-profit organization that Gulfport Academy is associated with. They are trying to acquire state money in order to expand their pre-k programs. Walker also says, "So that our goal one day could be accomplished, which is to make sure that every four year old has access to a free pre-k program." Teachers like Monahan believe four year olds are ready for a school setting. She says, "They're ready. They're like little sponges and everything you say they're listening and grasping, so I think at four they're more than ready to learn those kinds of things, like counting by tens. We're learning how to spell color words." Even parents see a difference in their children’s’ attention span with Pre-K Experience and see it as a good transition. Tracy Corrick, a parent, says, "This is a very good transition. They still get to be children. They get to play, they still sing songs, but yet taken at a point where they're made to sit for longer periods of time and I think it will be a wonderful thing for them before they go to kindergarten. It's not going to be a shelter shock." Grant applicants must match the state money. Participants can match those funds by using federal funds or private donations. Each applicant will be tested using kindergarten assessments to determine each program's effectiveness. The State Department of Education will likely announce the recipient of the grant money by December.