Introducing Learning Starts Early
The origins of Learning Starts Early can be traced back to early 2013 when a committee was formed by the Rector of St. James’ Episcopal Church, Warrenton, to investigate the needs of the community and the resources of the parish to determine how the church could begin an outreach program to meet the perceived needs. The committee discovered that 1 in 5 children entering kindergarten in Fauquier County could not meet basic readiness standards. After research in preschool intervention efficacy and discussions with community education leaders, an outreach program called “Ready for Kindergarten and Beyond” was established with goals of providing aid for families who were above the poverty cut-off established for Head Start and the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) yet unable to afford a high-quality preschool education for their children. Initially, the committee decided to provide tuition assistance to two or three students.
In 2016, as the committee was expanding its work, it changed its name to Learning Starts Early (LSE). LSE created its signature fundraising event, a pre-Thanksgiving 5K race through Warrenton. Generous private donations along with the successful race allowed LSE to establish a charitable fund with the Northern Piedmont Community Foundation. In addition to tuition aid, funds raised were used to purchase a Smart Board for Warrenton Head Start and a virtual translation system for the VPI program of Fauquier County Public Schools (FCPS) to facilitate parent education programs. LSE also provided educational materials for Caring for Angels, a preschool program for at-risk children in Bealeton, supported by Community Touch, Inc. LSE has provided supplies for the county’s Virginia Preschool Initiative Program (VPI) and books for the Books on the Bus (BOB) program.
In the spring of 2019, Learning Starts Early, Inc., became a nonprofit corporation with 501(c)(3) status. Our Board consists of 7 volunteer members and no paid staff. Our mission is to prepare every preschool child in Fauquier County to meet challenges in kindergarten and beyond. LSE works with FCPS, the Fauquier County Preschool Coalition and other local agencies to ensure that all children receive a high-quality preschool education. Our goal is to expand our tuition assistance program to increase access to preschool education in Fauquier County. Prior to the COVID19 pandemic, approximately 15 LSE volunteers read weekly to children at Head Start centers throughout the county.