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TCC receives grant that will have far-reaching effect on children and the future

A $247,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services to Tidewater Community College will have a lasting impact on not only the college, but also the region’s families and its economic future.

The college has been awarded a state Quality Rating and Improvement System – or QRIS – grant. Its goal is to improve the quality of day care centers, fund scholarships for the early-childhood educators who care for very young children and enhance the early childhood curriculum at TCC.

The real effect of the grant, though, may not be seen for many years, said TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani. “Fast-forward 13 years,” she said, looking to the time when today’s preschoolers are ready for college. “If we can prove these children are better prepared for college, they don’t need remedial education, their college completion rate is improved, and the region will have a stronger workforce, that will be the true legacy of QRIS,” she said.

For six years, TCC has partnered with Smart Beginnings of South Hampton Roads to expand offerings in early childhood development and education. An agreement with Norfolk State University enabled TCC students completing an associate degree in applied science to apply all of their credits toward a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.

Meanwhile, Smart Beginnings provided stipends to centers that adopted QRIS standards, which rate centers based on quality of programs and staff. Several TCC faculty members volunteered as raters and mentors to day care centers.

“Research tells us that children are prepared to succeed in school, academically and socially, based on their very early years at home and in day care,” Baehre-Kolovani said. “Smart Beginnings had the evidence to show that their approach works.”

Previously, the grant had been under the auspices of Smart Beginnings. With the organization transitioning into statewide advocacy as Elevate Early Education (E3), TCC agreed to apply for the state grant to continue the QRIS momentum. It will be leveraging its influence through many partners, including Eastern Shore and Paul D. Camp community colleges; Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater; early childhood coalitions in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Suffolk and Virginia Beach; the Planning Council; and Children’s Harbor in Portsmouth.

The partners’ shared goals are:

  • Ensuring access to high-quality learning environments for all children, including those with special needs;
  • Empowering families to provide high-quality, responsive environments for their children;
  • Ensuring smooth transitions from early care and education programs and home to kindergarten;
  • Ensuring that early learning educators have access to QRIS training and the resources and guidance to enable them to provide high-quality care;
  • Providing outreach to educate the community on the benefits of positive environments for children from birth to 5 years of age.

“Gandhi used to say that you may never know the results of your actions, but if you do nothing, there’ll be no results,” Baehre-Kolovani said. “I am very excited about TCC’s support and involvement in early-childhood development and education, even though in 13 years, I may no longer be at the helm.”

She said that TCC will remain committed to the QRIS program after the grant ends, with the college’s Educational Foundation raising money for its support.