Featured Photo: Blue Ridge Community College participates in an early childhood education and kindergarten rally in 2016. (File photo by Rich Keen, Marketing & Communications Dept. Download a high resolution photo.)
By: Benjamin Rickert
Marketing & Communications Dept.
HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. – In response to a local shortage of pre-kindergarten educators, Blue Ridge Community College will expand its Early Childhood Education (ECE) program next year thanks to a $1M grant provided by Dogwood Health Trust. The grant funds the College’s ECE Recruiting and Success Initiative, which aims to increase pre-kindergarten options for parents in Henderson and Transylvania counties by expanding the teacher workforce.
Accepted by the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation in December, the grant will assist students in all phases of the ECE program, from student recruitment through certificate or degree completion, and transition into four-year bachelors degree programs. Blue Ridge’s pathways for future educators are outlined at blueridge.edu/education.
“We are pleased to address the needs of our area’s parents, children, and workforce as we bolster Blue Ridge’s Early Childhood Education program through this generous funding from Dogwood Health Trust,” said Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “This grant will leverage our College’s existing strengths and the experience of our faculty and staff to make an even greater impact. The resulting initiative will recruit the next generation of pre-kindergarten educators and provide opportunities for students to work in their profession while they attend college, similar to our existing and successful apprenticeship program.”
A 2019 study from the Child Care Services Association, “Working in Early Care and Education in North Carolina,” stated that the pandemic “wreaked havoc on the great strides made in the early childhood education field in North Carolina.” As this field is revitalized, meeting early childhood education and care needs not only helps families, but pays dividends over time. The report also stated that “for every dollar spent on high quality early care and education programs, communities can expect a 7% to 13% return on investment.”
Specifically, Dogwood Health Trust’s $1M grant will support two ECE recruiting and success coach positions, additional adjunct faculty, professional development opportunities, and translation of courses and teaching materials into Spanish. These additions will increase Blue Ridge’s accessibility and capacity for students.
Lisa Adkins, Blue Ridge’s Vice President for Advancement, said these expansions will result in more pre-kindergarten and childcare options for parents in the years to come.
“Support from Dogwood Health Trust will enable Blue Ridge to both recruit additional students to the program and provide the support and services necessary for these students to obtain a certification or degree for professional entry into the workforce,” she said.
About Blue Ridge Community College
Blue Ridge Community College is a two-year, post-secondary institution that elevates the educational experience to prepare students for 21st-century success in the workplace or at four-year colleges and universities. Providing real-life, affordable, and accessible education, the College offers more than 200 degrees, diplomas, and certificates; convenient online courses; and fast-tracked job training.
Our Mission: Blue Ridge Community College empowers individuals with knowledge and skills to enrich our communities and build a competitive workforce.
To learn more about Blue Ridge Community College, visit blueridge.edu.
About Dogwood Health Trust
Dogwood Health Trust is a private foundation based in Asheville, North Carolina with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and wellbeing of all people and communities of 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in Western North Carolina. Dogwood Health Trust focuses on innovative and equitable ways to address the many factors that contribute to overall health and wellbeing. With a focus on housing, education, economic opportunity and health and wellness, Dogwood Health Trust works to create a Western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive, with dignity and opportunity for all, no exceptions. To learn more, please visit www.dht.org.