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Forget the Oscars, these awards change lives

Sunday night may have been the Oscars, but awards that truly have an impact that can last a lifetime were given out on Friday in the Charlottesville area. Local business leaders presented the first annual Star Quality Awards to fourteen exceptional teachers at local child care centers and preschools.

Over and over again, studies have shown that children who have quality child care and preschool experiences enter kindergarten ready to learn. Conversely, children who enter school behind their peers, stay behind. This is why it is so important to encourage participation by child care centers in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, which helps improve the quality of the care and early learning environments that they and their staff provide to our youngest children.

Additionally, quality, accessible child care has been found to be a key concern among local employees. Our local business leaders have stated again and again that the success of our local workforce is tied to ensuring quality early learning environments in our local community.

For these reasons, Mark Giles, Chairman of Virginia National Bank, and Peggy Echols, Vice President, Operations at State Farm Insurance, as members of the local Smart Beginnings Leadership Council, came up with the idea to publicly recognize outstanding child care providers, nominated by Star Quality-participating center directors.

Mark and Peggy envisioned the award as a Pre-K version of the coveted local “Golden Apple Awards” for outstanding public school teachers. They felt so strongly about it, that their companies combined to give each recipient a $250 personal award, certificate, books and a teddy bear for the classroom, plus some public recognition for the positive impact they have on our youngest children.

Like the Oscars, the recipients were all surprised to receive the awards; many had no idea they had even been nominated for this first-time recognition. There were tears, hugs, some speechlessness, and clapping from their young “audiences”.

Mark and Peggy spent the day with Smart Beginnings director Miriam Rushfinn, traveling from Charlottesville to Crozet and Covesville, to personally present the Star Quality Awards. Charlottesville NewsplexNBC 29 and The Daily Progress (includes list of recipients) each sent reporters to cover the awards.

Congratulations to the participating Star Quality child care centers, and well-deserved public kudos to the 2010 recipients of the Star Quality Awards.

Posted by Miriam Rushfinn.

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