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Southside gets $50,000 reading grant

The statewide Smart Beginnings initiative brings people together to help Virginia’s youngest citizens, age prenatal to 5, be successful in school and ultimately in the future workforce.   Community leaders from the public and private sectors in Halifax, Brunswick and Mecklenburg counties recently received a $50,000 Smart Beginnings planning grant from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF).  The early childhood development and education initiative will be known as Smart Beginnings Southside.

The grant from the VECF will be used to fund a comprehensive community assessment of early learning needs in the three participating counties, as well as the development of a local leadership council and community coalition. These groups will work together to create a long-term strategic plan that will be executed in the initiative’s service area.

The planning grant began in mid-2010 and will end Sept. 30.  This grant is a major first step in a seven-year grant continuum that could potentially result in an investment by the VECF and the Halifax, Brunswick and Mecklenburg communities of up to $650,000 in early childhood education. 

Southside Virginia Community College will serve as fiscal agent.  

“Many of the top community leaders in health and education are active members of the new coalition’s leadership council, including the presidents of area hospitals, the presidents or provosts of the local community colleges and the superintendents of the public schools in the three participating counties,” said Kandra Coleman, the newly-hired coordinator of Smart Beginnings Southside. “We are also engaging partners in the business community, social services and other early childhood stakeholders.”

Dr. John Cavan, president of Southside Virginia Community College, chairs the leadership council.

“With over 85 percent of the brain developing before the age of 5, children must be equipped with the necessary skills to start school healthy and ready to learn, so they will become engaged citizens and members of a skilled workforce,” he said. “Enriching early childhood experiences are the foundation for workforce development and economic growth.”

“A diverse group of enthusiastic and committed community leaders is developing a strategic plan to achieve the early learning goals in Halifax, Brunswick and Mecklenburg counties,” said Miriam Rushfinn, program officer for the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation’s Southside coalition.  “We encourage our statewide network of grantees to improve the systems and infrastructures that support young children and their families.”

About Smart Beginnings Southside

Smart Beginnings Southside is a collaborative partnership of public and private agencies, businesses, and individuals in Halifax, Brunswick and Mecklenburg counties, working to enhance the quality of services for young children.
For more information, visit:, call 434-532-3848 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

About the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation

As an innovative leader in creating results-oriented initiatives and collaborative partnerships to help the Commonwealth’s young children achieve lifelong success, the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation acts as a catalyst for workforce development and economic prosperity.  
To learn more about the VECF and its many initiatives designed to transform future prospects for economic growth in Virginia, such as Smart Beginnings and the Virginia Star Quality Initiative, visit <>.