Julianne Nickerson is a social worker, master's level trained at Boston University, and has served as the Building Bright Futures Regional Coordinator of Chittenden County. She is currently serving as the Promise Communities Director for the Vermont Department for Children and Families. The core component of her work is making sure that all partners are working collaboratively to serve children and families as effectively as possible. Julianne was previously a faculty member in the Leadership and Education of Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program at UVM. Most of Julianne's professional history has focused on supporting the family voice and teaching the philosophy of Family Centered Care through Vermont Family Network. She has taught a communications course at CCV for early care and education providers. Outside of advocating for young children, she enjoys the theater, reading, and spending time with her spouse, son and daughter.
Vermont’s Promise Communities initiative is an exciting new effort to support children and families in the state. Modeled after the Harlem Children’s Zone, a program that has experienced great success in preparing children for school and for life by starting with empowering their communities, the Promise Communities initiative brings together local representatives from education, health care, social services, private and public sectors, as well as parents and community members. This collaboration creates a comprehensive approach to transforming the community in order to better support young children and families—particularly those with high needs. While many states have implemented this type of place-based initiative, Vermont is among the first to use this model to address the nature of rural poverty.
Vermont has a wide range of programs and services to support children and families, but delivery may not be consistent or reach children with high needs and their families in every community. Barriers like inadequate transportation, inter-generational poverty, lack of affordable housing and limited local employment opportunities can be obstacles to the services that help create success for children. The Promise Communities initiative will make use of both state and local resources and promote community-based changes to improve school readiness for young children in our highest need, rural (by federal standards) communities.
Vermont has identified seven Promise Communities so far:
- Barre City/Town
- Bellows Falls
- Brattleboro - Green Street Neighborhood
- St. Albans - Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union
- Rutland City
- St. Johnsbury
In each community, a coalition of people who are committed to supporting young children gather at least monthly to review the strengths and needs of the community. The coalition will then create an action plan, or “Road Map,” to strengthen families and improve outcomes for children. Once the action plan is in place, financial support—consisting of grants up to $200,000—will be given to the community to assist implementation efforts. Each community coalition also works with a Promise Communities coach who guides the community through the two-year process. Community coalition meetings are open to anyone who is interested in the community and the success of young children and families.
The success of Promise Communities depends in part on Let’s Grow Kids’ efforts to inform parents and community members about how we can give our young children a strong start. We hope that as more people become aware of the importance of early childhood, they will consider joining their local Promise Communities team or learning about how their area could become a Promise Community.
With Early Learning Challenge--Race to the Top funding, we plan to identify 18 Promise Communities in Vermont over the next three years. In January we will begin the process of identifying the next round of Vermont Promise Communities. Please contact Julianne Nickerson, Promise Community Director at Julianne.Nickerson@Vermont.gov if you would like to know more about the Promise Community initiative in your community now or if you would like your community to be considered for this initiative.