United Way Bright Beginnings Celebrates 10 Years

United Way of Greater Houston and more than 100 guests celebrated the 10-year anniversary of United Way Bright Beginnings with a birthday party at the United Way Center on January 25.

Anna M. Babin, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Houston, kicked off the celebration by sharing United Way's commitment to academic success and the reasons United Way and ExxonMobil created United Way Bright Beginnings.

"The educational foundation we provide our children now will determine not only their future, but the future of our community," Babin said. "We are here to support our children, starting with early childhood education, and continuing with after-school programs, mentoring, character development, leadership training and more."

She thanked ExxonMobil for making Bright Beginnings possible through their strong support. She also thanked program partners Collaborative for Children and the University of Houston Institute for Urban Education, as well as all of the United Way Bright Beginnings teachers and directors for helping advance the quality of child care in Houston.

Rich Kruger, president of ExxonMobil Production Company and 2011-12 United Way Community Campaign chair, talked to guests about how improving the academic success of our children, starting with quality early childhood education, is linked to the future of our entire community.

"At a time when we often hear what's wrong with education, United Way Bright Beginnings is an example of what is right," Kruger said. "Children with the quality early education experiences that drive them to succeed in school also develop strong job skills, like problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration. They can expect higher employment and earning rates, and are more likely to own homes and positively contribute to their communities."

He also shared some of the highlights of Bright Beginnings' first 10 years:

• Bright Beginnings has touched the lives of 5,000 children and their families
• Bright Beginnings students score higher on standard achievement tests in non-verbal reasoning and problem solving
• Bright Beginnings students have performed better than their peers on 12 of 16 standardized tests
• Bright Beginnings has helped nearly 300 teachers earn child development associate certificates and associate degrees in early childhood education
• More than 20 Bright Beginnings teachers have earned bachelor or master degrees in early childhood education

United Way commissioned a children's book to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Bright Beginnings. The book, Each Day is New, is set at a United Way Bright Beginnings child care center. The book's author, local children's writer Varsha Bajaj, was on hand to read the story to a group of Bright Beginnings students. Guests also received a copy of the book to take home.

United Way Bright Beginnings is an innovative early education program designed to help children from families with lower incomes achieve social, emotional, physical and cognitive milestones and enter school ready to succeed.

Bright Beginnings combines high-quality teacher and director training with developmentally appropriate curriculum, equipment and supplies to create engaging, child-focused and hands-on learning environments for children.

This birthday celebration is only the first of many ways we will mark United Way Bright Beginnings' ten-year anniversary. Stay tuned for upcoming events with community leaders and educators, an academic paper about the program and its results, special bus tours and more.

View a photo gallery of this event.

For more information about United Way Bright Beginnings, contact Katherine von Haefen at 713-685-2846.

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