$100,000 Grant Awarded to Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke
THE ROANOKE STAR-SENTINEL
Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke, a local collaborative working to improve the quality of early education and care in the Roanoke area, has received a grant of $100,000 from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF), a public-private partnership headquartered in Richmond.
Funds for this “Sustaining Grant” will support the coalition’s ongoing efforts to build partnerships with business and community leaders and to increase public engagement about the importance of providing young children, ages 0-5, with quality early childhood experiences so they will be successful in school and in life. According to Kris Meyers, Program Manager for Smart Beginnings, “The grant will be used to expand parent education opportunities, increase the number of families receiving home visiting services, and provide professional development training for early childhood educators.”
Another focus of the VECF grant funds will be to increase the number of preschools and childcare centers participating in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative. This is a statewide system designed to help families make more informed choices when considering where to send their young children for childcare and preschool. Currently there are only six early childhood programs in the Roanoke region which have been “star rated” by the state of Virginia. The VECF funds will increase that number to 20 or more programs by 2012. In addition, the VECF grant funding gives Smart Beginnings the ability to provide these programs with intensive training and mentoring support designed to develop higher-quality learning experiences for young children.
Meyers began her career as a kindergarten teacher and knows firsthand the importance of early childhood education. “Many people don’t realize how much learning takes place between the ages of 0-5, but when I was a kindergarten teacher, I could clearly see the difference between children who had quality early learning experiences from those who did not. I am confident that the services we provide through Smart Beginnings will help reduce that gap, and ensure that our children are ready for kindergarten.”
United Way of Roanoke Valley will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant, which will impact the lives of approximately 5,000 young children in the Cities of Roanoke and Salem, in the Town of Vinton, and in Roanoke, Botetourt, and Craig counties over the next two years.
“Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke has made great strides since being established in 2007,” said Dora Butler, Program Officer for the VECF’s Southwest Virginia region. “The coalition is creating and leveraging early childhood systems and infrastructures that will launch young children on a path to lifelong success, as well as transform the economic vitality of our region.”