Last Updated: Jan 8th, 2015 - 07:42:25

Smart Beginnings gets a big boost
By Sarah Steele Wilson, Newsroom Editor
Dec 5, 2012, 15:25

photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Riley Ingram, Melinda Sexton, Kathryn Glazer, Scott Firestine, Katie Sloan and Tom Chewning gathered at the Appomattox Regional Library for the check presentation.

If achieving success is akin to climbing a ladder, reaching the goal at the top is much harder if the first few rungs are missing.

That is what Tom Chewning, Chairman of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, said as he presented a $112,500 from his organization to Smart Beginnings Hopewell-Prince George.

He said that when a child enters school unprepared to learn, it is similar to asking them to climb that ladder with the missing rungs.

The grant money he was presenting is intended to help put those rungs back in place.

“We want to give every child who is born in this area the opportunity of success,” Chewning said, speaking of the grant that will impact the lives of more than 5,000 young children in Prince George, Hopewell and Fort Lee over the next 18 months.

Smart Beginnings Hopewell-Prince George is a local coalition designed to improve the quality of care and education for pre-Kindergarten aged children and is just one of many such programs in Virginia. The Smart Beginnings program started in 2007 as a public private partnership between the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, which provides leadership to Smart Beginnings programs across the state, and the Virginia Office of Early Childhood Development.

Chewning said that while Thomas Jefferson went so far as to declare that “all men are created equal,” he didn’t add the caveat, “but we don’t stay that way for long.”

He said that the brain develops very quickly for the first three years of a child’s life, making those years essential in a child’s intellectual, social and emotional growth

“I learned early on that anyone who’s stimulated has the ability to learn,” he said.

Chewning said that he thinks investing in early childhood education makes more sense than paying for children to repeat years of school or paying for their incarceration.

“I believe it’s the best investment this area and the state can make,” he said.

Del. Riley Ingram, R-62, who was on hand for the check presentation at the Appomattox Regional Library on Monday morning, said that efforts to make sure children enter school ready to learn are beneficial for all people.

“It benefits everyone – parents, teachers, businesses, and taxpayers when children start school ready to learn, and it takes investment in quality early childhood programs in our communities to make that happen,” he said.

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