Rosemary Hernandez Garcia is the Associate Director of Education at Early Childhood Centers of Greater Springfield (ECCGS), the largest single-site preschool program in MA. In addition, she is an Adjunct Instructor at Wheelock College. Prior to joining ECCGS, Rosemary was Program Manager for the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, where she managed several projects supporting the professional development needs of the early education workforce. Rosemary has worked as an early education administrator for over 16 years. She received her Master’s in Business Administration from Southern New Hampshire University, a Graduate Certificate in Women and Government from the University of Massachusetts Boston, her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and her Associate’s Degree from Northern Essex Community College. In 2004 she was named Alumni of the Year by Northern Essex Community College and was recognized by the national program, WomenWork! as one of their 25 Women of Triumph. Rosemary’s admirable commitment to improving early education is evidenced by her years of dedication to the field. BTWIC has been lucky to have her contribute to several of our projects over the years, including our Task Force on Early Educator Compensation Reform, our Student Loan and EITC Awareness Campaigns, and most recently our Eating to Learn project. Please describe your professional and educational background, and how you ended up where you are today. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. However, I didn’t know how rewarding early childhood education is until I worked in the field. I started as a volunteer for an America Reads program in a 1st grade classroom. Then I worked in a family childcare system for 5 years. I then went into the classroom and quickly turned into a center director. Moving to Western MA I had to start all over again with brand new connections. I had the opportunity to mentor educators and address quality issues for programs. Most recently, I have worked in early literacy and now as a center director. All of my experience has shaped my thoughts and practices to improve the field. I have always had a flair for research and policy to address the inequalities in the field and for the children and families we serve. Why did you get involved in early education? My passion comes from my humble beginnings. At an early age I understood the only way out of poverty is by education and knowledge. Once I began teaching and administrating programs I saw the changes in children and families. It worked for me and for my family, and I thought why not give back to my community and address the challenges faced by impoverished communities. What has surprised you the most about your work in early education and why? What surprises me the most is the dedication of the early childhood workforce. Regardless of the issues teachers face on a daily basis, they take on the challenges of being a good teacher while balancing their personal struggles. Yet still our community undervalues and doesn’t appreciate the hard work of building a solid foundation that lasts a life time. Our communities invest in many other areas that sometimes don’t make sense, yet our teachers and children are struggling every day. What are your goals–both for yourself professionally and for the field of early education? I would like to see early childhood education become a priority in our community by increasing funding and visibility of the importance of early childhood education. I would also like to address the challenges of lack of competency and compensation for our educators by thinking of new ways to mentor teachers and meet their needs. I would like to address systemic changes on how we deliver early childhood education services to families and children. I think we need to be more intentional in our delivery system to connect family services with early childhood education. Our community is in dire need of solutions to meet families’ basic needs. By combining services we can start addressing some of the challenges we face.
Feeding America, a leading national anti-hunger organization, released a report this year that maps areas in the U.S. where children are food insecure, a term that means lacking consistent access to adequate, nutritious food. The report, Map the Meal Gap: Child Food Insecurity 2012, finds that 235,480 children in MA are living in food insecure homes. The report states: Inadequate nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture and stunt their intellectual capacity, affecting the child’s learning, social interaction, and productivity. How can early education programs help to mitigate this impact? At the elementary and secondary school levels, the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program demonstrate that state and federal policy reflect the connection between nutrition and quality education. Early education programs and policy need to reflect this connection as well. The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) reimburses participating child care providers for three meals or snacks per day. However, the reimbursement does not cover additional meals or snacks provided to children who spend long hours in care. In addition, some early education programs require parents to send meals and snacks for their children. In food insecure households, this requirement may result in a lack of adequate, nutritious food because healthy food tends to be more expensive and less accessible in some low-income areas. Cheaper, easily accessible food is often high in saturated fat, sugar, and sodium which can lead to childhood obesity, a phenomenon often related to food insecurity. Early education programs serving children eligible for CACFP have an opportunity to improve the quality of a child’s educational experience by utilizing this program. Young children who receive nutritious meals in child care benefit from the vitamins, protein, and iron their bodies and brains need to grow and develop to their full potential. They are better able to focus, engage in physical activity, and retain information, as opposed to children without a nutritious diet who may exhibit irritability, have low energy levels, and have trouble focusing, all of which can prevent a child from receiving the quality early education he or she needs to prepare for a successful academic career. BTWIC has begun exploring the crucial role that food and nutrition play in quality early education. Look for further details on this project as we continue our research this fall.
Starting today at 8am, The Boston Foundation is running the 2012 Giving Common Challenge, a 36-hour giving event which offers cash prizes to local non-profits who have the most donors or the largest amount of money donated. The Challenge will give away 60 prizes worth $151,000 to the winning non-profits. Along with over 500 other non-profits in MA, the Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children (BTWIC) is participating in the challenge, so if you are interested in giving to BTWIC, please consider doing so between the hours of 8am today, Wednesday October 10th and 8pm Thursday October 11th. With your help, BTWIC could win $1,000 if we are one of the first 10 non-profits to get 50 donors, or the $25,000 grand prize for raising the most funds!
The Giving Common is a free on-line resource available to donors throughout the year, designed to make charitable giving quick and easy. The Giving Common provides detailed profiles of non-profits throughout the state to would-be donors, allowing them to make strategic decisions about where they want to donate. Participating organizations submit a profile which includes the organization’s mission, programs, history, and financial statements. Non-profits interested in joining The Giving Common can do so by emailing The Boston Foundation and requesting a profile (however it is too late to join the Giving Common Challenge). The Giving Common benefits non-profits by raising their visibility, and by saving time on grant applications from funders who use the Giving Common as part of their grant-making process.
Whether or not you can afford to give, please spread the word about the Giving Common Challenge to your networks, asking them to give to BTWIC! You can track BTWIC’s progress throughout the challenge on the leaderboard on the Giving Common website.
BTWIC has worked with the Boston Alliance for Early Education (BAEE) for several years on many different projects. BAEE is a unique membership organization that offers key supports to the field of early education. BAEE is based in and primarily serves the Boston community, but their model demonstrates an effective way to bring educators together to improve the quality of early education that other communities in MA may find interesting and informative. BAEE was formed when the Innercity Network merged with the Boston Child Care Alliance. Their mission is to promote universal access to high quality early education for Boston families. BAEE does this through a variety of ways: trainings, technical support, mentoring, advocacy, and outreach programs available to their members and others in the community. Memberships in BAEE are open to all and are available at the individual or program level. BAEE’s 2012-2013 calendar includes monthly Early Educators Network meetings and trainings on various topics, as well as trainings for directors on NAEYC accreditation and QRIS (Quality Rating Improvement System). As BTWIC prepares to launch our on-line tool, An Early Educator’s Roadmap to a College Degree, we are particularly interested in BAEE’s Career Development program which offers career counseling to early educators wishing to advance professionally. BAEE, along with the Boston Association for the Education of Young Children (BAEYC), also holds an annual Early Educators Awards Gala to celebrate the achievements of member educators. On the advocacy front, BAEE engages families and early educators in supporting public policies that increase access and improve quality. BAEE offers early educators in Boston the opportunity to join a professional network that will provide them with career support at the individual level, as well as the chance to join BAEE’s organized campaign to improve the field of early education for the workforce, and for children and families. BTWIC has chosen to highlight BAEE because of the enriching opportunities they make available to Boston’s early education workforce.