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McAuliffe announces establishment of Early Childhood Development Institute

educationFour Virginia community colleges will soon be working together to elevate early childhood education in the Commonwealth thanks to a $1 million personal gift from Ben and Betty Davenport.

The funding will establish the Davenport Early Childhood Development Institute, which will partner with four of Virginia’s Community Colleges: Danville, Patrick Henry, Virginia Western, and New River. Governor McAuliffe announced the gift during the gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Virginia Community College System, hosted by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education, in Richmond.

“It is imperative that our education system prepare children for the opportunities of tomorrow by giving them the tools for educational success as early in life as possible,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at the gala. “I sincerely thank the Davenport family for the generosity that will make the institute possible, and I commend the Virginia Community College System for their innovation and their individualized attention to students across the Commonwealth.”

The Institute’s purpose is to create a talented workforce in Southern and Southwestern Virginia to ensure access to high-quality training and education for individuals working in childcare centers or family childcare homes, and increasing access to high quality childcare options for all working parents. Programming will include training, a network of professional development opportunities, coaching, and a Fellows Program, which will provide select students with financial incentives, service opportunities and leadership experiences.

“We believe every child should have the opportunity to have a successful, productive life,” the Davenports stated. “We like to compare childhood development to planting a crop. You would never sow the seeds without first preparing the ground and nurturing the planting until time to harvest. Similarly, children need proper care and educational instruction from the beginning of life. The Virginia Community College System is at the forefront of providing the training to make this happen.”

“Early childhood development is increasingly important to tomorrow’s Virginia,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “It’s one of those unmet needs our colleges were created to address. The future of Virginia’s workforce and economy is related to quality education starting at birth. This timely gift will ensure that a more qualified early childhood development workforce is available for years to come.”

The Davenports of Chatham, Virginia, are longtime philanthropists, with a special interest in education. Ben Davenport currently serves as chairman of two companies, each of which employs more than 100 area residents – Davenport Energy and First Piedmont Corporation, a full-service waste management company he started in 1969. Both of the Davenports have a history of advocating on behalf of early childhood education. Betty has served on the board of Smart Beginnings Danville/Pittsylvania, and Ben is director emeritus of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation.