The success of our early childhood programs would not be possible without the support of our donors. They know that without our services many families would be left without access to the help they need to give their children the best start in life. While financial support is essential, many of our donors are also dedicated partners who invest their time and energy into ensuring the children we serve can thrive.
The Simon family is just that. They are ambassadors for early childhood education and are dedicated to helping change the trajectory of children’s lives through their philanthropic work. For more than a decade, Linda and Cheryl have been making a difference for children in our programs. Linda Simon, a former high school English teacher with a passion for children’s literacy, helped fund the Baskind Library at our Educare Chicago program, which provides access to educational children’s books for its students. Linda’s daughter-in-law, Cheryl Simon, a previous school social worker and mother of three, is a founding member of Start Early Affiliates Board and served on the board for 11 years.
Recently, we sat down with Linda and Cheryl to find out more about why investing in our earliest learners is so important to them.
- Why is your family passionate about early childhood education and the work of Start Early?
With a background in education, we understand the value of high-quality education. Supporting the important mission of Start Early is a priority in our philanthropic work because we have observed how these interventions are changing the trajectory of children’s lives every day. We are struck by the passion of the leadership at Start Early as well as the research that drives the daily goals. From advocacy work, home visits to the Educare centers, Start Early is covering so much ground.
- How has being supporters of Start Early changed or enhanced your views on the importance of early childhood education?
As Start Early supporters, we are constantly learning from the data and research that is shared. We know this research drives the interventions and advocacy work but quite honestly we are learning on a personal level as well. I will never forget leaving one of the annual luncheons and feeling guilty that I had not been reading enough to my 3 month old son. In addition, spending time at Educare is extremely powerful. We observed firsthand how impactful the environment is to children and their families. Not only are children surrounded by quality learning experiences, both cognitive and social-emotional, but the parents are empowered to become leaders in their community. For example, having a little alcove with a couch when you first walk into the classroom helps facilitate a partnership between the parent and teachers. These little details all contribute to the success of the family and community.
- Why is providing financial support to Start Early an important facet of your philanthropic work?
We believe in the work of Start Early and know that quality early learning has the potential to transform children, families, communities and our nation. It is critical to continue investing in early childhood education by engaging both the child and parent on the importance of reading and carrying home the positive environment created at Educare. Not only are we providing support, we feel it is necessary to increase awareness around this issue and spread the word to our networks. We like to think of ourselves as ambassadors of early childhood education. When you hear about the achievement gap between children born into poverty and those born into families with means it is impossible to ignore this issue. We know that early childhood programs like this can narrow the academic achievement gap. They also have the power to change lives of children, their families and our communities which benefits us all.