In 2012, ELPM launched the annual Sibley Award for Early Learning Leadership and Program Excellence grant competition to empower the skilled and committed leaders of the ELPM early learning centers to provide new or expanded learning opportunities to children, their families and their teachers. The grant opportunity was created to honor Mr. James Sibley, a steadfast figure in Atlanta business and philanthropy, and was made possible through the generosity of the John H. & Wilhelmina D. Harland Charitable Foundation and The Pittulloch Foundation.
Each year, the ELPM centers are invited to submit a proposal outlining a project, or an extension of an existing project, and how their center would benefit from the $15,000 Sibley grant award. A pre-established judging panel, comprised of local business leaders, review the proposals and make a decision on the winning center. The Sibley Award serves as a reminder that the work of an early learning provider is all-encompassing, and it is work that deserves to be celebrated. We all carry our memories from early childhood with us for the rest of our lives. It is heartening to read the enthusiasm and dedication these providers have for providing a positive and supportive environment in which children can thrive.
The first Sibley Award winner was the Minnie Howell Child Development Center for its “Watch Me Grow” program. Through this series, the center provided children with the exciting hands-on experience of planting vegetables and monitoring their growth. Teachers and nutrition providers also received training to provide practical, age-appropriate lessons on healthy habits. When the Chattahoochee YMCA was awarded the grant for their “Edible Urban Garden” program, one of the center’s primary goals was for the garden to leave a legacy behind. Not only did the garden carry on, it also inspired the center to incorporate elements of the gardening experience into their classroom activities.
The Sylvan Hills Child Development Center made families its focus with the “Parent and Family Engagement Project.” The center consulted with an expert to evaluate their current outreach strategies and to identify any potential barriers. By the end of the evaluation and training period, 100% of families developed an individualized Family Partnership Plan with the center.
With the “Special Needs Support Group” project, the Paulding YMCA aimed to provide one-on-one consultations with families, while also connecting families so that they could share resources and support one another.
The Minnie Howell Child Development Center developed the “Childhood Acute Mental Health Practices (CAMP)” program with the goal of increasing the understanding of mental health among teachers and families. Equipped with specialized training, teachers and families developed long-term care plans to support children through the third grade.
Through the “Introducing a Trauma Informed Approach to Mitigate Toxic Stress” program, the Sylvan Hills Child Development Center prioritized an organizational shift that promoted support to its staff so that they felt equipped and confident to provide the best care possible to children and families. It is important to acknowledge the stress that often comes with the incredible responsibility of being an early care provider.
The Guice Child Development Center developed the “STEM in Early Education” program to address the lack of STEM materials and lesson plans geared towards early learners. This project opened the door for successful community partnerships that could contribute to the long-term success of providing STEM-based lessons for children before they enter Kindergarten.
The College Heights Early Childhood Development Center also identified a way to incorporate curiosity and wonder to important lessons plans. The “Building Capacity and foundation for Early Literacy” program which focused on expressive language development, especially among children who were learning English as a second language. Seeking to establish a love for reading, the staff members were trained on cultural relevancy to make decisions that are more informed on age-appropriate books that celebrated diversity.
The Renaissance Child Development Center proposed a continuation of their “Montessori Pilot Program” to provide the renowned Montessori learning style to children who would likely not have access to it otherwise. With this program, the center is providing ongoing Montessori training to two teachers. Off to a promising, children and their families now have a new approach to learning.
Since the COVID pandemic began, ELPM explored ways to broaden its reach and expand its mission to help other providers outside of the ELPM centers. Many childcare centers permanently closed during the pandemic and ELPM wanted to help ensure that the centers that were open – remained open. In 2021, ELPM developed its Quality Facilities Initiative (QFI) to support early education by helping existing providers address facility maintenance and capital projects they have not been able to fund.
The QFI is a competitive grant process awarding grants to eligible childcare programs in metro Atlanta serving children from birth to five years of age in underserved areas. Capturing on its construction expertise, ELPM implements and manages all aspects of the maintenance or capital project on behalf of the awarded center. While these providers possess a wealth of knowledge and experience in education and business, addressing facility needs and construction projects often presents an additional burden on time, finances and resources.
One outcome of the QFI program is to enable childcare providers to achieve, maintain or improve its Quality Rated status through Bright from the Start (BFS). Quality Rated is Georgia’s system for evaluating and improving childcare and education programs. When a childcare program is enrolled in the Quality Rated system, providers have access to free technical assistance, professional training and additional grant opportunities. The state of a childcare facility can greatly impact a program’s Quality Rated status, and thus their ability to tap into additional resources.
Through the QFI program, ELPM will help to strengthen existing providers so that more children can receive high-quality care and education. Facility improvements can often lead to expanded capacity, immersive programming and more opportunities for funding. Safe and adequate facilities also help to ensure that quality early education can take place, so that children are more prepared for Kindergarten and can develop their learning skills in an engaging and nurturing environment.
Over twenty-five years of experience has shown ELPM that high-quality childcare programs benefit the entire community. Children have a place to grow and interact with their peers. Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to work or attend school. Connecting with a childcare program can also empower parents to be a strong advocate of their children’s growth and development for years to come. The more communities that are anchored by high quality child care programs, the more opportunities there will be for young children and their families to thrive.