Two Local Leaders Selected

August 6, 2013

smart-beginnings-logoLocal Early Childhood Leaders Selected for Inaugural
Smart Beginnings Leader Institute

Fredericksburg, Va. (August 1, 2013) – Two local leaders have been selected as members of the charter class for the Smart Beginnings Leader Institute, a new seven-month series of informative sessions launched by the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to engage, educate, and enrich the capacity of leaders across the state to advance school readiness for Virginia's young children.

The leaders representing Planning District 16 are:
     Sara Branner, Executive Director, Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area
     Leigh Anne Van Doren, Owner/Publisher, Fredericksburg Parent & Family Magazine

The Smart Beginnings Leader Institute will consist of five sessions held in various locations over the seven-month period from July 2013 through January 2014. Attendees of the Leader Institute will learn from and dialogue with nationally-recognized thought leaders on topics related to building systems and support for quality early learning initiatives.

The Leader Institute will address issues such as envisioning a local early childhood system, building dynamic partnerships to support and sustain school readiness initiatives, and generating public awareness about the importance of early learning. The Leader Institute is supported and partially funded by the Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission. Several businesses and educational institutions are hosting the sessions, including LexisNexis in Charlottesville, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College in Richmond and Cox Communications in Roanoke.

The Smart Beginnings Leader Institute kicked off on July 30 in Charlottesville with a session entitled "Envisioning a Local Early Childhood System." The distinguished speaker was Joan Blough, Senior Vice President for Great Start System Strategy & Evaluation at Michigan's Early Childhood Investment Corporation.

In addition to learning from the featured presentation, representatives from Planning District 16 will network with their counterparts from Smart Beginnings initiatives across the state, sharing best practices in school readiness programs and services.

"As community leaders across the state grapple with building their local economies and workforce, they understand the critical importance of ensuring that children start school healthy and ready to learn," said Ben Davenport, Chairman of First Piedmont Corporation and chair of the VECF Board of Directors. "As a public/private partnership, the Foundation is committed to investing in local leadership development not only to drive Virginia's school readiness, but to preserve Virginia's economic competitiveness and quality of life."

"The VECF is committed to strengthening the skills of community stakeholders to promote effective policy and fiscal strategies to advance school readiness," said Kathy Glazer, President of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. "Through the Leader Institute, we aim to launch a new era of strategic leadership for school readiness in the Commonwealth."

For information on the Smart Beginnings Leader Institute, contact the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation at (804) 358-8323.

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About the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation: VECF creates results-oriented partnerships to ensure that young children are prepared for school, serving as a catalyst for workforce development and economic prosperity. To learn more about the VECF and the Smart Beginnings initiative, visit

Sara Branner
Executive Director
Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area
Phone: 540.479.6944
Fax: 540.479.1018

Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area
Ready for School. Ready for Life.


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