Sep 07, 2016Springfield Reporter
contributed
Let’s Grow Kids announces that Springfield resident Rachel Hunter is one of four Vermonters to be recognized as Early Childhood Superheroes for going above and beyond to help young children reach their full potential.
 
Hunter is a home-based child care provider who works tirelessly to improve Vermont’s early childhood system. Hunter, who has been working in the early childhood field for 15 years, is a mentor in Vermont Birth to Five’s mentoring program, which matches seasoned early childhood professionals with less experienced child care providers seeking support. She participates in the Springfield Building Bright Futures Regional Council and serves on an oversight committee for Vermont’s quality recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs known as STARS (STep Ahead Recognition System). She also serves on the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care. Rachel says: “I hope we can get to a point where all children can access quality care, that families can afford it and that they don't have to choose sub-standard care to pay the mortgage.”
 
The selection of Early Childhood Superheroes followed a statewide call for nominations of unsung heroes among educators, child care professionals, parents, grandparents, volunteers, business peoples, policymakers, civic leaders and clergy. From the nominations, a panel of early childhood experts representing Building Bright Futures, Vermont Birth to Five, the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance and Let's Grow Kids selected four Vermonters from various regions of the state who have demonstrated a commitment to the success of Vermont’s youngest children through “above and beyond” contributions to children’s lives. 
 
“Early Childhood Superheroes understand what’s at stake when our children don’t have access to high-quality, early care and learning opportunities. They are working hard every day to address Vermont’s serious shortage of high-quality, affordable child care and they each deserve to be recognized for what they do to support Vermont’s youngest children,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
 
The other Vermonters chosen for this round of Early Childhood Superheroes include:
 
  • Dana Anderson, of Middlebury, is the regional coordinator for Addison County Building Bright Futures. Dana strengthens Vermont’s early childhood system by securing grant funding for new programs and promoting collaboration within her community. Dana helped to create an educational early childhood TV series on Middlebury Community Television called Growing Bright Futures and now produces it every month. Dana says: “My hope for the future is to get more families engaged in wellness activities so the focus is on proactive health rather than fixing problems.”
     
  • Betsy Bailey, of Lyndonville, is the owner of Little Dipper Doodle Children's Center, LLC. Betsy considers the needs of all children in her care, whether by ensuring every child gets a present during the holidays, purchasing clothing for kids in need, providing rides to doctors’ appointments or helping with foster care. Betsy’s program has 5 stars, the highest quality recognition level possible in Vermont’s quality recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs known as STARS (STep Ahead Recognition System). Betsy says that making sure all kids have access to quality care starts with livable wages and benefits for providers, so that offering child care is sustainable and children can have consistent adults in their lives.
     
  • Kristy Haapala, of Braintree, is the executive director of Waitsfield Children's Center, where she works hard to maintain the highest quality rating possible: accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and 5 stars from Vermont’s STep Ahead Recognition System. Kristy is known for going above and beyond to meet the needs of families and young children. When a foster mom suddenly got the call from the Department of Children and Families that a 10-month-old baby was in need of emergency foster care, she called Kristy for help with child care. Kristy jumped into action to accommodate the infant, allowing the mom to care for and ultimately adopt the infant.
Let’s Grow Kids continues to seek nominations to join the ranks of Early Childhood Superheroes through an online nomination form: http://www.letsgrowkids.org/nominate-superhero.
 
This article appeared in the 9/7/16 print edition of the Springfield Reporter
 

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