June 12, 2017 3:32 pm
Walking up the steps of the 100 year old Woodlawn Learning Center building, it smells like spring. Inside I can hear children laughing and phones ringing. Preschool registration is in full swing. It’s a short walk down the hallways to a large classroom filled with 16 bouncing three-year-olds singing and jumping along to an episode of StoryBots about the letter “J.”
Angelia Brown walks in with a student and leads him to the other children as they begin storytime. We chat a bit under the swaying letters, shapes, and numbers hanging from the ceiling until storytime ends and the class moves on to free play. She’s a kind faced woman with an infectious smile, and the kids are drawn to her like magnets. Angelia sits down with Hunter to read a book and play with blocks together.
Angelia and Hunter work together to build a castle.
Angelia is the teacher’s assistant for this room. With six grown children of her own, her love for the kids in this classroom is evident, and it’s that same love that enticed her into the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential ™ program through First Connections VA.
“Earning a CDA Credential pushed me to excel in my profession; and I was able to advance my career by obtaining a teacher’s assistant position with Head Start…. From the time I joined First Connections VA, they have taken a vested interest in me, the individual… They send emails, make phone calls, visit your workplace and if you have any concerns they go the extra mile to make sure your needs are met.”*
Katie Sloan, First Connections VA’s Coalition Coordinator, with students in the homemaking learning corner.
That Head Start position landed her at Woodlawn, but Angelia didn’t just earn her CDA through First Connections VA, she’s gone on to take advantage of a number of other programs that First Connections VA offers like college classes and certifications.
“I knew I had to work, so full-time college courses were out of the question. First Connections VA connected me with scholarships through DSS [The Department of Social Services]. I’ve been taking Early Childhood classes, one class at a time, but I’m getting it done… So this is a huge accomplishment. I’m grateful just knowing that the mentors of First Connections VA, along with my family, will be there when I walk across the stage to receive my degree in Early Childhood Development…I’m Blessed!”*
Angelia takes a moment to look out her classroom window.
John Randolph Foundation provided a grant to First Connections VA to ensure that children are prepared for school – emotionally, cognitively, socially and physically. Investing in children at this early age is crucial to closing the educational gap between poor and wealthy children. The grant from JRF supports programs like the CDA program offered to Angelia and her peers. Better training for childcare providers means that more children will have quality educators from the very beginning.
“It has been an amazingly rewarding experience to watch our teachers grow, develop professionally, and influence the lives of the children they teach…. Angelia Brown and her peers absorb all that they are taught because of the passion they feel for the work they do! They take all that they learn back to the workplace. The John Randolph Foundation has made many of these opportunities available. When a child gets off to a great start, their life journey is limitless!” said Katie Sloan, First Connections VA’s Coordinator of Programs and Community Impact.
Angelia shared this last note with me. “Special thanks to my Principal Joyce P. Jones, my director Peggy Fulton at Woodlawn Learning Center, Hopewell, for embracing First Connections VA and all that they have to offer. The children, the parents and the early childhood professionals – we all benefit.”
This post was written by Jennifer Brown