EdNC.org Interviews Smart Start CEO

… read EdNC correspondent Katy Clune’s full story Closing the Gaps: Smart Start of Forsyth County  as part of EdNC’s on going series Focus on Forsyth

On February 1, EdNC’s Katy Clune sat down with SSFC’s CEO Larry Vellani. Follow the full conversation below. For further information about EdNC’s feature series, Focus on Forsyth, visit EdNC’s Focus on Forsyth.

EdNC: On the subject of relationships. What advice would you offer to a community who is attempting to foster a network among its early childhood education services? (This is clearly one of Winston-Salem’s greatest assets)

LV
.. overlook no one, recognize and embrace the value of the participation of a diversity of opinion; then, once you have folks gathered  around the table, support active listening skills and terrific meeting management … it’s as much about creating the space in which people can participate, and creating a culture of inclusiveness & transparency, so that folks feel respected, feel they know what’s going on, feel that their concerns & perspectives are taken into account, and that the group is rallied around the same, strong, parent-&-child-centered agenda …

– EdNC: What kind of programs/services does Smart Start support that touch multiple generations? (Reach out and Read is one of them, for example)

LV
… with our own staff, of course, our ROR & ABCD programs, our classroom field work, our educator scholarship program through our offices and our itinerant instructor partnership with Forsyth Tech, as well as our own parent engagement & training through our family scholarship program and our subcontractors at Imprints Cares & Work Family Resource Center … and Help Me Grow is an exciting, transgenerational program in its early stages of initiation …

– EdNC: Are there lessons learned at Smart Start of Forsyth County you think can be applied in other counties?

… Larry engaging at the Reggio Emilia exhibit “The Wonder of Learning” at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC, January through May … for more info, visit https://www.northgatemall.com/event/wonder-of-learning-exhibit/

LV
listen to the parents, the teachers and the providers about what they need and want … have a big table and don’t be afraid, don’t back away from asking tough questions to get at deeper understanding and deeper consensus, based upon the valuable experience and insight of each of the players … and in 21st century North America, regardless of the region, state or province, that means lifting up equity, examining privilege, understanding the continuum of opportunities and access that feed the gaps we bemoan … it is no accident that some parts of our educational system are doing great and others are languishing … it’s a system: value in value out, garbage in, garbage out—and I’m not talking about people when I say garbage …

– EdNC: Why is inter-generation support important?

LV
… if by inter-generational you mean programs that provide opportunity for children and adults at the same time, as part of a family system, then doing so keeps us aligned with Mother Nature and in sync with ourselves as social animals … simply put: working with the entire family is nature’s way, it’s the guarantee of the most successful outcomes for the kids and adults long term …

– EdNC: Why is early childhood education so vital to brain development?

LV

… Larry engaging at the Reggio Emilia exhibit “The Wonder of Learning” at Northgate Mall in Durham, NC, January through May … for more info, visit https://www.northgatemall.com/event/wonder-of-learning-exhibit/

… as walking and running and tumbling, with sufficient rest, is fundamental to physical development, so providing enriching, serve-and-return environments is key to how the human brain develops … nurture launches nature … early ed is about nurturing the entire child within a safe, healthy, stimulating human and natural environment … when a child is fortunate to be positioned in that way, his or her brain takes off … I believe as a society we owe every child the opportunity for that kind of start … in failing one child, we fail all of us …

– EdNC: What is one of the challenges in your work, and how do you get around it?

LV
… summoning your best thoughts in the moment for a camera … 😉 … more seriously, the greatest challenge is the oppressive, suffocating power of poverty, and our inability as a social and economic community to maximize market return on human capital with the same spare-no-expense commitment that we seem to approach maximizing return on financial capital …and how do I deal with it? … I have limited control, in the short run, on gross economic inequalities that result in the grinding poverty in our midst … I do frequently have to deal with channeling my own sense of urgency for change with an awareness of the privilege that I enjoy to be able to help create & lead change … everyone is not at the same level of understanding or same level of passion for the opportunities for progress that I and others see around us … how do I seek to meet & be in tune with folks where they are at in the moment, and, at the same time, know that I’m in the business to help people move toward the goals we truly do share …that’s often my greatest challenge each day … and, believe me, I’m a work in progress and working on it … with the support and patience of my staff, my board, and other allies and mentors in the community … but, in the end, real, lasting change can only move at the speed of trust …

– EdNC: What motivates you to keep striving when the work gets tough?” 

LV
… my sense that people have struggled long & hard on my behalf to help fearlessly clear the way for me in my early childhood & youth &

What’s buzzin’ with Don Quixote & Sancho Panza on Larry’s desk?

into young adulthood … and that people did the same for my parents & their parents before them … and they did so, because they believed I had something to contribute to the world … I’m here to make a difference, not to be indifferent … and as long as I think I’ve got the energy & passion to do that professionally in the early childhood arena  then I’ll be at this post … and when the time for change comes, I hope I’ve made this post & this organization & this community a bit better place to be for the folks who come after me …

 Extra:

Two brief video excerpts from a later EdNC video-taping at SSFC’s offices …

 

Brief excerpt on the importance of Birth – 3, and Serve-and-Return Relationships

 

… Larry doing his level best to work on serve-and-return with a very patient, youth-volunteer at the SSFC Children’s Area at “Christmas For the City 2016” at the Benton Convention Center in downtown Winston-Salem, Dec 21, 2106 … la música y las historias continúa