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Dogwood grant helps BRCC expand childcare training

Blue Ridge Community College will expand its childcare education in 2023. [RICH KEEN/BRCC] Blue Ridge Community College will expand its childcare education in 2023. [RICH KEEN/BRCC]

In response to a local shortage of pre-kindergarten educators, Blue Ridge Community College will expand its Early Childhood Education program next year thanks to a $1 million grant from Dogwood Health Trust.

The grant funds the College’s ECE Recruiting and Success Initiative, which aims to increase pre-kindergarten options for parents in Henderson and Transylvania counties by expanding the teacher workforce.

Accepted by the Blue Ridge Community College Educational Foundation in December, the grant will assist students in all phases of the ECE program, from student recruitment through certificate or degree completion, and transition into four-year bachelors degree programs. Blue Ridge’s pathways for future educators are outlined at

“We are pleased to address the needs of our area’s parents, children, and workforce as we bolster Blue Ridge’s Early Childhood Education program through this generous funding from Dogwood Health Trust,” BRCC President Laura B. Leatherwood said. “This grant will leverage our College’s existing strengths and the experience of our faculty and staff to make an even greater impact. The resulting initiative will recruit the next generation of pre-kindergarten educators and provide opportunities for students to work in their profession while they attend college, similar to our existing and successful apprenticeship program.”

A 2019 study from the Child Care Services Association, “Working in Early Care and Education in North Carolina,” reported that the pandemic “wreaked havoc on the great strides made in the early childhood education field in North Carolina.” As this field is revitalized, meeting early childhood education and care needs not only helps families, but pays dividends over time. The report also stated that “for every dollar spent on high quality early care and education programs, communities can expect a 7 to 13 percent return on investment.”

Specifically, Dogwood Health Trust’s $1 million grant will support two ECE recruiting and success coach positions, additional adjunct faculty, professional development opportunities and translation of courses and teaching materials into Spanish. These additions will increase Blue Ridge’s accessibility and capacity for students.

Lisa Adkins, Blue Ridge’s Vice President for Advancement, said these expansions will result in more pre-kindergarten and childcare options for parents in the years to come.

“Support from Dogwood Health Trust will enable Blue Ridge to both recruit additional students to the program and provide the support and services necessary for these students to obtain a certification or degree for professional entry into the workforce,” she said.