‘Smart Beginnings’ rebrands as ‘Center for Early Success,’ looks to new regional leadership role | News


Early childhood education in Pittsylvania County and Danville has gotten an overhaul. “Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania” is now the “Center for Early Success,” and along with the new name comes a regional leadership position for the 10-year-old Danville nonprofit.

“Our new brand reflects our expanded reach across 16 localities in central and southern Virginia and our commitment to being at the center of positive growth in the early childhood education arena,” wrote Hannah Barker, community engagement coordinator with CES, in an email to the Star-Tribune. “Our rebranding does not reveal a new mission statement; rather, the change reflects our expanded reach, resources and regional leadership role.”

CES aims to strengthen the early childhood education system in Southside Virginia by training childcare professionals, connecting with regional leaders, and ensuring that classrooms receiving tax dollars are in compliance with state initiatives.

“(We are) responsible for convening partners serving families with children from birth to age five within our region to increase coordination, collaboration, accountability and family engagement to support families in accessing what they need and choose,” Barker wrote. “Families are at the center of everything we do at CES.”

“We work with any organization that offers services to children zero to five years of age,” added CES Executive Director Angela Wells. “This includes Head Start programs, public school systems, private child care providers, family day dome providers, community service boards, Department of Social Services and other agencies that support children and families zero to five years of age.”

The center’s new regional leadership position comes as a local partner of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which describes itself as a “non-partisan steward” of early childhood and pre-kindergarten education.

“Since 2005, VECF has served as Virginia’s public-private partner in building strategic and sustained focus on the healthy development and school readiness of our youngest children,” the nonprofit’s website reads.

VECF has divided Virginia into nine “Ready Regions.” CES now leads Ready Region Southside, which stretches from Amelia County — just east of Richmond — to Lynchburg, Danville and points in between.

“VECF oversees the Ready Regions network, coordinates technical assistance, and leverages additional public-private funding opportunities to support some core functions of Ready Regions,” Barker wrote. “Ready Regions will bring public and private partners together to ensure Virginia’s early childhood system prepares children for success. They will be responsible for coordination and integration of critical services and resources starting with early childhood care and education.”

Barker stated that CES won the position through a grant application.

“The Center for Early Success successfully competed for a state-level Ready Regions grant that provides annual funding in excess of $1 million to strengthen early childhood education,” she wrote.

Ready Regions are a part of a larger effort to improve early childhood education in Virginia. Last year, the state moved oversight of childcare centers from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Education to focus oversight on childcare classroom curriculums.

“We will work to strengthen the quality of child care, build relationships among early childhood stakeholders, increase access to quality child care for families, and engage families in creating an early childhood system that meets their needs,” Barker wrote.

The CES will have their work cut out for them. According to the VECF, Ready Region Southside needs around 5,300 more childcare slots to meet demand, out of a population of about 27,400 children under the age of 5.

Families interested in connecting with CES for childcare resources can visit the organization’s website — centerforearlysuccess.org — Facebook page, or reach out to the center’s Family Engagement Coordinator, Kushana Galloway, at “[email protected].”

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