Thanks to the generosity of our WomenGive Members and supporters, over the years we have expanded the WomenGive program to support both single mothers and early childhood partners in our community. This additional funding has included the Front Range Community College Women In College Project, the continuation of grant support for the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative (COSI) through Project Self-Sufficiency, and most recently a new academic scholarship at Colorado State University for students pursuing a career in early childhood education.

This fall, the WomenGive Leadership Committee was presented with an opportunity to establish an endowed scholarship in the College of Health and Human Sciences to support early childhood educators. After careful consideration, the Leadership Committee voted unanimously to join in the effort to ensure the best, brightest and most passionate students are entering this field. Together, we are furthering our impact, and elevating the quality of the childcare workforce in Larimer County. This scholarship will impact early childhood educators and the minds they shape for generations to come!

The announcement of the WomenGive Scholarship for Early Childhood Educators was shared at the WomenGive Fall Social in October 2019 by the Dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, Lise Youngblade. Lise spoke to her passion for early childhood and shared the story of  Kayla Prieto, the first recipient of the WomenGive Scholarship at Colorado State University. This scholarship supports a student pursuing a degree in Early Childhood and will help to lessen their debt burden post-graduation. Read on for Lise’s remarks on the importance of supporting the entire system of early childhood education and early care for our youngest citizens. 

“The challenges surrounding childcare go beyond high cost, with the average cost of childcare in Larimer County of $1,200 per month per child or essentially a second mortgage. In order to create sustained change and to support our families utilizing childcare, we have to further support the childcare system as a whole.

There are over 100 children and over 100 students served each year as well as over 1000 observations that happen at the Early Childhood Center. The three-fold mission of the school is to train future early educators, provide outstanding care and education, and conduct research related to early childhood. 

Care is important, but a critical aspect of early education is, well, education. Indeed, the number one strategy for reducing poverty and improving the human condition is education.

Consider these 3 facts:

  • Research on brain development has shown that the experiences children have in the first three years of life significantly impact the physical structure of the brain and children’s ability to learn.
  • By the time children enter school, 90% of a child’s brain growth has been completed.
  • Investment in providing high quality experiences in the years prior to entry into the K-12 education system has been shown, especially for at-risk children, to provide a return on investment ranging from $7 to $17 for every dollar spent, depending on what factors are measured. This return on investment is based on reductions in need for remedial and special education, lower dropout rates, less involvement in the criminal justice system, higher enrollment in college, and higher lifetime earning potential.

If we agree that investment in early education is important, then we also have to agree that investment in the early education workforce is also critical. We are excited to announce that earlier this year, we presented the opportunity of an endowed scholarship for Early Childhood Educators to WomenGive and the answer came back as yes! This gift is critical – we look for our best and brightest students to take on the responsibility of early education. They are attracted to this field because of a deep-seated commitment to human potential, and a passion for enacting that commitment at the earliest ages. They often graduate with debt that is not easily met by these working conditions. This scholarship is a strong step toward validating the importance of this career path, and encouraging students to pursue it.

Madisen Golden, Kayla Prieto, Annie Davies 

Kayla Prieto is the inaugural recipient of the WomenGive Scholarship. She is a first generation student at CSU, majoring in Human Development and Family Studies with a concentration in Early Childhood Professions. Her career goal is to be a teacher. Her goal statement for the scholarship is eloquent and talks about her commitment to young children, to teaching, especially to supporting children of color. She talks about her struggles with college and seeking people who could help her navigate college given that her parents did not finish school, nor speak English at that time. 

Kayla is an outstanding recipient, and she sets the bar high for the students who will be awarded. I am so very moved by this gift from WomenGive. Not only are we joining together to support single mothers on their path to achieving their educational goals and self-sufficiency, but we are doing this in a comprehensive way by joining together to support the workforce who is integral to the success of single mothers, their children, and our community. The WomenGive Scholarship is the future. She is committed to a career in early education, committed to young children, committed to strength and potential. But one statement caught my attention in a really profound way. She said: I want to leave an impact on my students and let them know they are bigger than their struggles. For me, this summarizes the impact of WomenGive and why it is so powerful – it elevates women, mothers, in the most inspirational and supportive, strength-based ways – not defined by struggles but defined in potential. In hope. In goals. In achievement. In celebration.

On behalf of CSU, thank you for this amazing endowment. Your investment ensures that we will continue to make a difference and continue to contribute to the early childhood workforce, for years to come. Thank you again.”

Lise Youngblade is the Dean of the College Health and Human sciences. She earned her Ph.D. and M.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from The Pennsylvania State University, and her B.S. in Psychology from the University of Oregon. She’s been with CSU since 2006. She is an applied developmental scientist whose areas of specialization include child and adolescent socio-emotional development; access to healthcare for vulnerable youth; program evaluation; and analysis of developmental processes in educational and community contexts. She is also on the board of directors for United Way of Larimer County. 

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