Building Children’s Futures

Dr. Robert H. Sandel

Hundreds of children around the Commonwealth entered an exciting new world this fall--Kindergarten. They probably walked into the classroom wearing new shoes and toting a new backpack filled with brand new school supplies. But did they come ready to learn and succeed in school? That question is much more complex that it might initially seem.

The start of a new school year is a good time to remind all Virginians that the learning process actually begins long before the first day of Kindergarten. The latest research data has proven that more than 85 percent of a child’s brain network is wired in the first five years of life. Environmental and health factors, combined with early learning experiences, determine their lifelong ability to learn, to relate to others, to be productive in the workplace and to be fully engaged citizens. Investing early is a smart beginning to their future success.

The goal of the Building Children’s Futures in the Greater Roanoke Valley is to work together to support young children’s growth and development in order to ensure they start to school healthy and prepared for success. It is a task that we must vigilantly pursue, not only because providing every child with an opportunity to be healthy, educated and successful in life is the right thing to do, but also for the long-term economic and workforce benefits that result from investing in our youngest citizens.

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Early childhood education is critical to our community's future economic well being. It's a question of pay-now or pay-later. Research indicates that if children are prepared when they start school and reading on grade level in their early years, they're far more likely to stay on track and finish school rather than become a costly drain on the community's social service system. Those who finish school are much more likely to become contributing members of our workforce.

Joyce Waugh, CEcD
President, Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce

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The United Way of Roanoke Valley serves as the fiscal agent for Smart Beginnings Greater Roanoke.

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