(June 19, 2019) Catherine Read sits down with Sallyann Bergh, Executive Director of Fairfax Futures. Since 2004, Fairfax Futures has been raising awareness about the critical role that school early childhood education plays in promoting academic and lifelong success.
In partnership with the business community and Fairfax County, Fairfax Futures is uniquely positioned to foster cross-sector collaboration in support of early childhood education and school readiness in the county. Through their annual Business Leaders Reception and Leadership Forums, they aim to raise the awareness in the community about the importance of investing in our youngest citizens. Approximately 85% of brain development occurs by age five. It is increasingly clear that the achievement gap starts early on in life, so quality educational experiences prior to kindergarten can greatly enhance a student’s potential and provide a solid foundation for learning.
In addition to working with the business community, Fairfax Futures focuses heavily on supporting early childhood educators. They provide both learning opportunities and ongoing resources for educators. Every year they sponsor a School Readiness Symposium, a unique daylong educational forum for early childhood educators across Fairfax County. Topics presented include literacy, science and math, the arts, play and nature. This was the 15th year of sponsoring a program and the 2019 School Readiness Symposium theme was Healthy Children, Healthy Futures. The program is possible thanks to a generous grant from the PNC Foundation.
While Fairfax is regularly recognized as an affluent community, there are pockets of poverty and income inequality. There are 74,000 children under the age of five in Fairfax, and one in five of those children are living in poverty. With the cost of quality early childhood education hitting record high numbers, it makes it very difficult for many of these students to access quality early childhood education.
Fairfax Futures works closely with the county’s Office for Children that helps to identify families who are eligible for subsidies and county run programs.. In 2017, Fairfax County adopted the Equitable School Readiness Strategic Plan. Fairfax Futures partners with government, the private sector and the nonprofit community to support goals and objectives of this plan. The goal is that all children, regardless of economic, cultural or ethnic background are prepared for school. Through the Neighborhood School Readiness Project, they forge relationships between local schools, community resources, early childhood educators and families, to ensure that children are well prepared for their transition to kindergarten.