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Advantages of Early Education Highlighted By New Campaign

Businesses and non-profit groups are teaming up to shine a spotlight on what Vermont’s youngest children need—and may not be getting--to do well later in life. They launched a public relations campaign at the Performing Arts Center in Burlington on Friday.

Toddlers were brought into the lobby to sing the alphabet song as people filed into their seats. Mrs. Vermont, Sera Anderson, posed with her son, Caden, for photo-ops with local community leaders in front of a huge backdrop emblazoned with the logo for the new campaign, “Let’s Grow Kids.”

In the auditorium, a daycare provider, a kindergarten teacher, a spokesman for a child advocacy group, a business leader, and a pediatrician spoke to about a hundred people about the importance of good pre-school education and experiences. The pediatrician, Joseph Hagan, cited scientific data showing that stress and trauma can prevent children from developing healthy brains.

“Early life experiences shape our future relationships, our mental health and our longevity. And  remember, it is easier to prevent, it’s easier to invest up front than it is to fix or remediate. It’s never to late to teach, to model, to love, but the earlier you start, the better the outcome,” Hagan said.

"Early life experiences shape our future relationships, our mental health and our longevity."- Joseph Hagan, pediatrician.

Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power Corporation, told the audience she has been actively working on behalf of young children for almost 20 years. She says it’s not just a moral imperative; it’s good business, because parents without adequate daycare may not be productive on the job, and young children who are not nurtured and educated may not become good workers and citizens when they grow up. 

“We also have data that says every dollar invested in early care and education returns seven dollars later, so it really is to me a profound business issue, a profound societal issue,” Powell said.

Organizers of the three-year statewide public relations campaign say it is being funded by private donors and businesses. At the end of the news conference, Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire asked the audience to wear buttons and distribute business cards with facts about early childhood development. She says that the new campaign is not aimed at specific actions or policies, other than spurring more private and public investment in the health and welfare of Vermont’s pre-schoolers.

Charlotte Albright lives in Lyndonville and currently works in the Office of Communication at Dartmouth College. She was a VPR reporter from 2012 - 2015, covering the Upper Valley and the Northeast Kingdom. Prior to that she freelanced for VPR for several years.
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