Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania Encourages A Shared Vision for Young Children and Families
February 2, 2015

Danville and Pittsylvania County, Va– Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania hosted “Creating a Shared Vision for Young Children in Danville and Pittsylvania County” on Friday, January 30, 2015, at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research. “More than sixty-five community leaders from multiple agencies such as Danville Public Schools, Pittsylvania County Schools, Head Start, the Health Department, the Danville Department of Social Services, the Chamber of Commerce, the Community Services Board, Averett University, Danville Community College, local government, the healthcare community and others participated in an interactive conversation about young children and families. The group considered questions like ‘What do young children need to be successful in school and life? And, how can we work together to fully utilize our collective resources?” said Ann Vandervliet Stratton, executive director, Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania. “We are learning that collective impact is the commitment of a group of people from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem at scale,” adds Laurie Moran, chairman of the board of directors for Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania.

Dr. John Morgan, former Executive Director at Voices for Virginia’s Children, a statewide, independent policy research and advocacy organization, presented an overview of the local, state, and federal dollars that fund the early childhood “system” of resources and services in Danville and Pittsylvania County. “In 2014, approximately $13 million dollars were designated to support the intellectual, physical and emotional needs of young children. There are close to 6,000 children under age 6 in Danville and Pittsylvania County. Sixty-five percent of those children live in poverty,” said Morgan.

Collective impact experts, Merita Irby and Ian Faigley from the Forum for Youth Investment, facilitated group discussions. Ms. Irby is a chief architect of both the Forum and its signature initiative, Ready by 21®. She has worked with key leaders from school districts, governmental departments, community collaborations, and non-governmental organizations nationwide. “Conditions for collective impact include a common agenda, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support,” shared Merita Irby.

“Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania is one of 28 school readiness coalitions in Virginia. Our mission is to ensure that young children enter Kindergarten physically, emotionally and intellectually ready for success in life. Working with our partners, we have seen significant improvements in pre-literacy rates and in the availability of high quality preschool options for parents. There is still work to be done. To continue making progress, we need a shared vision and specific strategies for blending our efforts and resources,” added Vandervliet Stratton.