Kris Barker, Executive Director speaking at our annual fundraiser

Good Evening. Welcome.

I am Kris Barker. The Executive Director for the South Whidbey Children’s Center.  The Children’s Center has been serving the children and families of Whidbey Island for 38 years… 38 years.

This past summer, I dropped my youngest off at college…. She was a sunflower just yesterday.   Now she is attending Linfield College in Oregon.  Linfield is a small liberal arts school.  As I sat in her convocation and listened to the president of Linfield, Dr. Miles Davis, address the students and faculty all I could think about was the South Whidbey Children’s Center.  Dr. Davis spoke about why a liberal arts education is important in our society.

Excuse me while I borrow some of his words. Dr. Davis noted that a liberal arts degree, teaches students more than skills, but gives them a voice. He said and I quote, “a liberal arts education gives students a depth of knowledge and learning that allows them to reason through problems and engage in debate.”

A voice… Reason through thinking… Debate.

If you have children, you know that the debate part comes naturally.

While I was sitting there, I was thinking about our children and staff. How we create a safe environment for all children.  How we help all children to become independent thinkers. How we model problem solving and help children to advocate for themselves. How we show respect and empathy. This is what sets the Children’s Center apart.  This is what makes us special.

And it is why high quality early childhood education is so important.

We are setting the foundation for later in-depth learning, thinking, acquiring new skills.

And yet is creating critical thinkers the most important work we do?

Certainly, it prepares children for lifelong learning.  And…on any given day, what I see is so much more.

Can I please have my teachers and staff raise your hands.

Look around this room.  Each person with their hand in the air brings love, joy, empathy, respect and understanding to the children of Whidbey Island.  Our community is forever changed by the people standing next to you.  Tonight we honor their work.

Research tells us that for any child the key indicator to their later success is resiliency.  The ability to bounce back.

Resiliency is built through enduring challenging circumstances and having one person that sees you.  One person that truly understands you.  One person that will stand by your side when you are at your worst.  For a great many children, our teachers are that one person.

The South Whidbey Children’s Center is committed to providing preschool and childcare to all children regardless of their families’ ability to pay.  Over 40% of our families receive state subsidies or tuition assistance to help to cover the cost of childcare.  We are the only childcare center on the south end of the island to take state subsidies and foster children.

While many of our children come to us from intact families that offer love, support and nurturing guidance, some of our children come to us during turbulent times, when parents are homeless or not in the picture.  Some of our children have seen and endured things that no person should have to experience. Some of our children are just going through a rough spot, a new classroom, a divorce or a bad day. And yet they all enter into the same classrooms. They are all greeted and welcomed in the same manner.  While a teacher may quietly step out of the room to prepare a lunch for a child that’s family could not afford to bring one or bring enough—-no one else knows.  While a teacher might jump up at rest and wash a child’s clothes because that is not happening at home— no one else knows.  While a child might get some extra cuddles or stick close to a teacher while she or he goes into the office or kitchen, because they need extra reassurance— no one else knows.

This is what we do. This is who we are. This is why we need your support.

We are that one person.  We nurture their brains and we feed their souls.  We do this because this is what we love to do and because this is what is needed.

But we simply cannot charge what it costs to operate a high quality early learning environment and maintain our commitment to meet the needs of all families regardless of their ability to pay.

Tonight as I am ever so grateful that you are here supporting the center I ask that you give as you are able.  Many young lives benefit from your generosity tonight.

Thank you so much for attending.  Thank you for your support.

October 16, 2018

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