May 01, 2017
Let’s Grow Kids has recognized the following five Vermonters as Early Childhood Superheroes for going above and beyond to help young children reach their full potential.
Hope Campbell, of Barnet, is the director of child care programs at Vermont Community Loan Fund. For 17 years, Hope has dedicated herself to helping early childhood professionals provide high-quality, affordable early care and learning programs for Vermont’s youngest children.
Hope takes a hands-on approach to helping providers run financially viable programs while keeping their costs affordable for families. Hope is there for providers every step of the way—from connecting them to mentors through Vermont Birth to Five to providing training and information on how to write a business plan. She’s even advocated at the State House about the importance of supporting early childhood professionals.
“My hope is that every child is able to access all the services they need so that they can be the best they can be. I would like for us to as a society to start looking at ways we can bridge gaps to make child care a financially viable system. We need to come together as a state—the children deserve that,” Hope said.
Kristin Lange, of Rutland, lead teacher for Rutland Head Start, is a calming and encouraging presence for children and families who are experiencing difficult times. Kristin is always smiling or singing a tune, even when she’s confronted with the most challenging behaviors.
Co-workers appreciate Kristin’s compassion and empathy. For example, when a Syrian refugee recently joined her classroom, Kristin immediately began working on learning basic Arabic and labeling her classroom to make her new student feel safe and comfortable.
Kristin also works part-time as a gymnastics coach for children with special needs. Somehow, while juggling two jobs and raising a family of her own, Kristin also finds the time to advocate for children across the state.
“I am always trying to reach out to people and be a shoulder when they need it,” Kristin said. “If I had a magic wand, I would take all the trauma away from the children and replace it with joy.”
Anne Latulippe, of Duxbury, executive director of the Children’s Room in Waterbury, is an integral resource for her community. Her work is wide-ranging: from developing and running high-quality programming for young children to supporting local families to advocating for early childhood issues in Montpelier.
Anne inspires her colleagues with her energy and enthusiasm. From running weekly music and movement groups for 20 toddlers to organizing monthly playgroups for over 100 participants, she’s always looking for creative and economical ways to engage young families.
Anne said she’s proud of the work being done in her community and across the state “to make sure our children have the best beginning.” This summer Anne will participate in the Early Childhood Leadership Institute at the Snelling Center for Government.
“My hope is that families with small children are supported in every way,” Anne said. “There should be more family-friendly systems in place that allow families to focus on early childhood on their own terms.”
Paula Nadeau, of Waterbury is the owner of Tiny Dreamers, an infant and toddler program in Williston. She is also the mother of two young boys who has experienced Vermont’s child care challenge both as a parent and as an early childhood professional.
This year Paula became an outspoken advocate for Vermont’s young children. She volunteered at community events and talked to Vermonters about the need to invest in high-quality, affordable child care on Town Meeting Day; she wrote letters to the editor and appeared on radio shows; and she even helped plan a Rally for Kids at the State House during Early Childhood Day at the Legislature where she was one of the featured speakers.
“I didn't know that I could accomplish so much, so quickly as an advocate,” Paula said. “My hope for Vermont is that we close the wage gap for child care providers so that they may care for both their own families and the families in their programs to the very best of their ability.”
Trisha Scharf, of Essex, the executive director of Children Unlimited in Williston, has been in the early childhood field for 30 years. This year, Trisha has been calling on Vermont legislators to increase investments in high-quality, affordable child care.
Trisha helped plan a Rally for Kids at the State House during Early Childhood Day at the Legislature where she was one of the featured speakers. She told lawmakers about parents with children in her program asking her when they should start trying to get pregnant with a second child because they know infant spaces are non-existent. She also talked about losing a young, dedicated teacher to another profession because she could not support her family on an early educator’s salary.
“It breaks my heart when I have to turn families away because I don’t have space for their children. Unfortunately, it’s an everyday occurrence,” Trisha said. “The best investment Vermont can make as a state is an investment in its children. That’s what I’m asking our legislators to do.”
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 five 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 play an absolutely critical role in giving Vermont’s kids a strong start. They understand that children’s experiences during the first five years are literally built into the brain and they’re committed to making high-quality, affordable child care a reality in our state,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
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.