First Lady Pamela Northam kicks off back to school tour in Southwest Virginia

First Lady Pamela NorthamAs nearly 1.2 million Virginia students look forward to heading back to school in the coming weeks, First Lady Pamela Northam will celebrate by visiting early childhood education programs and elementary schools and discussing the importance of school readiness. The First Lady will be delivering books and school supplies as she visits schools and learning centers in each of the Commonwealth’s eight Superintendent’s Regions, starting with Region 7 on August 21 and 22.

“Many of us can still remember the excitement of getting that shiny new folder and new shoes for the first day of school, but school readiness actually starts in those important years before kindergarten, when around 90% of a child’s brain development occurs,” said First Lady Pamela Northam. “All Virginia children are capable of, and deserve to be, entering kindergarten with the tools they need to succeed. We are dedicated to unifying Virginia early education programs and providing access to quality care and education for children and families no matter who they are or where in the Commonwealth they live.”

The First Lady will be joined by Chief School Readiness Officer Jenna Conway, highlighting school readiness as an economic development issue in Southwest Virginia and across the Commonwealth. The First Lady and Jenna Conway will also speak with local stakeholders, including the United Way of Southwest Virginia, about the challenges and successes local communities are facing in improving school readiness.

“Today’s children are tomorrow’s workforce. Children who participate in high quality early care and education—whether in school, child care or Head Start—are more likely to succeed academically and socially in school, in the workforce and in life,” said Chief School Readiness Officer Jenna Conway. “Affordable child care also benefits the current workforce by enabling parents to work or complete school which is especially important when Virginia’s unemployment rate is at an all-time low.”

“We are truly looking forward to the First Lady’s visit to our region as the new school year begins for each of our students,” said President and CEO of United Way of Southwest Virginia Travis Staton. “School readiness is more than having a brand-new backpack; it starts at birth—years before the first day of kindergarten.”

Roughly $500 million is invested in early childhood care and education in Virginia with additional resources available this year. More than $55 million in additional federal and state funding will help strengthen child care, Head Start, and the Virginia Preschool Initiative this year.

“Teachers and leaders across the Commonwealth are excited to welcome children and families back to school,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. James Lane. “Each year offers another opportunity to support all Virginia students, including our youngest learners, to build the knowledge, skills and attributes needed to be successful in school and beyond.”

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