Agency Q&A: YWCA Sprout School

United Way works with 40+ local and regional nonprofit agencies to tackle each of our nine Steps to SuccessGet to know these agencies and learn about their partnership with United Way. We invited Kathleen Eastman, Director of Child and Family Development at YWCA Sprout School, to tell us about her work.
Tell us about your current role and your professional background.

I found my passion for early childhood education when I worked part-time in a child care center as a freshman in college. Since then, my professional and education goals have worked together to allow me to help educate young children, early childhood teachers and parents of young children. I love to watch as they all learn and discover together.

I found a new home three-and-a-half years ago at YWCA Richmond and its Sprout School. I am the Director of Child and Family Development. I have helped the YWCA grow to serve more children from broader ages and more diversified backgrounds. The mission of the YWCA is to empower women and eliminate racism. I believe The Sprout School is doing both.

What is The Sprout School?

The Sprout School is an intentionally diverse school. We have a mixed-income model. We reserve a third of our spaces for parents who pay full-tuition, a third for parents on partial-scholarship and a third for parents on full-scholarship. We use the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which encourages the children to learn about themselves and their world in a community of learners. The teacher plants the seeds, but the children tend the garden.

How do preschools approach the traditional back-to-school season? Does the Sprout School run any special events this time of year?

The start of a new school year is very exciting at the Sprout School. New children and returning children combine to create an entirely new community. Teachers introduce new experiences and provocations and build on the children’s prior knowledge. Home visits and/or parent conferences allow parent engagement and parent-teacher relationships to form from the very beginning. We intend to hold a new event this year called It is Never too Early to get Ready for Kindergarten.  This event will familiarize parents with the choices they have for kindergarten and to provide them with hands-on activities to support their child’s learning at home.

What do you think is the biggest value United Way brings to education organizations in the area?

United Way provides a lot to education organizations. It is more than just funding, although funding is important. United Way provides volunteers and exposure to programs of which the public may not be aware.

Tell us about your favorite back-to-school memory.

Most of my back-to-school memories are of shopping for and choosing my first day of school outfits. There was one year in Junior High when I got up, showered and dressed – all at 2:00 am – I think I was excited!

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