For Latisha Edwards, teaching is “being a creator. Learning through play is the best part, because not only are the children using their imagination, but I’m using my imagination as well, and that’s just always fun.”
Latisha works as an assistant teacher at First Presbyterian Day School in Durham, North Carolina, while also attending classes at Vance-Granville Community College for her associate’s degree in early childhood education. “After that, I plan on attending UNC-Chapel Hill for my bachelor’s degree,” she said.
“Honestly, it was not [always my plan to work in early childhood education,]” Latisha said. “My mom owned a child care center my entire life and I was off doing retail. Once I had my son, I started working part-time with the center and I just kind of grew to love it, and that was almost nine years ago.”
Latisha started her education in 2014 but then had her last child, “so I stopped and got out of it. I was still working in the field, but I left [my education] alone. So, in the fall of ’19, I re-enrolled…Hopefully, I will finish in December, but I’ll walk with the May class.”
First Presbyterian has a looping program for infant-toddlers and twos. “Right now, I’m with the two-year-old [classroom], but in June, when we do our transition, I will be transitioning back to the infants, and we start all the way over until we get to two and then we do it all again,” Latisha said.
The most rewarding part of teaching for Latisha “is knowing that you are actually building a child’s self-esteem because teaching is not always a-b-c’s, 1-2-3’s. It’s about building confidence in children and having them just grow up and be great adults…I love what I do, honestly.”
Care Services Association works to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality
child care for all young children and their families by supporting our future leaders—young
children—and those that educate them. And we’re always looking for fresh ideas
and new ways to do just that. Each semester, CCSA hires interns from
surrounding colleges and universities to help drive our goals, better
understand our communities and support future leadership. This spring and summer,
we had three incredible future leaders here at CCSA.
We are pleased to share what our interns said about working with CCSA:
Katie Thayer interned spring 2019 as
a graduating senior from UNC-Chapel Hill working in our Family Support
department. After graduating in May with her bachelor’s in human development and family
studies, she was hired full-time as the family engagement counselor for
Durham PreK and now works alongside the Durham County Government initiative to
ensure high-quality pre-K for all Durham County 4-year-olds.
“Interning at CCSA has been an incredible education and work experience for me…Through my internship, I worked on many different projects throughout the organization. I was able to develop relationships with people from each department and other Durham-based organizations, and I learned so much about pre-K, early childhood and nonprofit organizations. Everyone at CCSA has treated me like one of their own since my first day, and they’re always willing to help when I need it.
“I spent most of my time helping the Durham PreK Senior Manager, Alex Livas-Dlott, with Durham PreK applications, screening children for pre-K, planning teacher events and surveying teachers on family engagement practices in the classroom. Now, I have added community outreach for family applications and social media to my list of daily activities as the family engagement counselor.
“Being an intern at CCSA was a wonderful experience, and I am so glad I have the opportunity to stay.“
Colleen Burns, a rising junior from
UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in anthropology and biology, spent her summer
interning in CCSA’s Communications department and spearheading the Anchors
Away! for CCSA Awareness campaign on our social media and blog.
“Almost every student’s concern when starting an internship is, “How much of this will be gaining experience versus me just being someone’s assistant?” Working at CCSA has truly been nothing but an enriching experience.
“This summer, I had the opportunity to create and launch a social media campaign to spread awareness about CCSA and its many different programs. This was a big undertaking as CCSA operates so many programs, projects and initiatives. At first, I wasn’t really sure how to cover this extensive nonprofit adequately, and when I originally came up with the idea for Anchors Away! for CCSA Awareness, even I was skeptical if the amount of workload needed to run this campaign was possible. However, I received a ton of support from the Communications Manager, Jennifer Gioia, and when we presented the campaign to Marsha Basloe, the president, she believed in us.
“As soon as the campaign kicked off, it was at full speed. A large process of the campaign was ensuring the other programs were on board and willing to work with us as we gathered information for daily content, including interviews and videos. Overall, we had a huge amount of support for this campaign as the staff and community were excited to not only see their own program featured but also learn things about the other programs CCSA operates.
“This has been an insightful and rewarding experience for me, not just for the communication and social media skills I earned, but also for learning about the issues that affect our community. Through the campaign, I was able to read and listen to the many testimonials given about CCSA’s efforts to strengthen quality child care for children, families and teachers. So many people appreciate the various resources CCSA provides. Even if only for the summer, I am grateful to be a part of something that is making a difference in the community.“
Our third intern to highlight is
Sarah Hanson, a Master of
Public Administration student at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has been interning at
CCSA since May in two departments, both in the Administration and the Systems,
Research and Development departments.
“In Systems, Research and Development, my main task is following up on workforce surveys that were sent out in April. Many of the surveys were missing crucial information and needed clarification in order to properly assess and analyze the data.
“In Administration, I had the opportunity to observe a Board Orientation. It helped me better understand the non-profit process. I am updating board committee descriptions and the Board of Directors Manual. I’m also creating an e-manual for Administration where the documents are all located in one e-manual making them easily accessible from anywhere.
“Throughout the summer, I have learned about the importance of research and accurate data collection in policy and program development and implementation. It is necessary to improve and expand the services the organization provides. I have also learned more about how policy and funding impact non-profits and the services they provide. Oftentimes, the importance of early childhood education is overlooked even though it plays a critical role in child development. CCSA is working to change that.“
Written by Colleen Burns, Summer
2019 Communications Intern from UNC Chapel Hill
Feuer is a mother of two with her younger son, Sam, in child care in Chapel
Hill. As any mother of a four-year-old would, Rachel expects her son to talk
about the toys he played with or the new friends he made that day at his child
care center. But one of his comments stands out among the rest.
raves about the food served at his child care center. “My son has asked me many
times to make Robert’s soup or Robert’s salad dressing or Robert’s chicken or
Robert’s greens,” Rachel says. “He has asked me many times why we can’t just
have Robert’s food at home, and was disappointed to find out that we can’t just
order it. Recently, he has started asking for Robert’s recipes daily, and
wondering why Robert doesn’t have a cookbook.”
Robert isn’t a cook at Sam’s child care center, though. Robert Cates has been a manager of the Meal Services program at Child Care Services Association (CCSA) for 20 years. He manages the kitchen in Orange County at the University United Methodist Church in downtown Chapel Hill and generates menus for all three of CCSA’s Meal Services kitchens. He also works closely with CCSA’s Meal Services program senior manager, Lisa Menna, who manages all three kitchens, to ensure meals meet the nutritional needs of the children by collaborating with dietitians and nutritionists as well as sourcing meat, produce and other products from local farmers.
What is the CCSA Meal Services?
operation for almost 30 years, CCSA’s Meal Services program began out of the
kitchen at the University United Methodist Church in Orange County. It expanded
with the construction of the Jim and Carolyn Hunt Child Care Resource Center in
Durham County, and in 2017-18’s fiscal year, the program served 1,300 children
daily in 24 centers.
Meal Services program provides two nutritious meals plus one nutritious snack per day to children
enrolled in participating child care centers in Durham, Orange and Wake County.
These scratch-made meals meet or exceed all USDA requirements for child
care and are compliant with the Child and Adult
Care Food Program (CACFP). CCSA serves as a food sponsor for CACFP, a federal program that sets standards for
nutritious meals for children ages birth-12 years, and subsidizes the cost of
food for child care programs, targeting children whose families qualify for
free and reduced lunch.
says, “CCSA makes it possible for smaller child care settings to provide
excellent food for kids and teachers. At the small [child care center] my son
attends, there is no space or budget to hire someone to cook meals.” This is
the case for many child care centers.
purchasing food in bulk, the Meal Services program allows child care centers to
purchase nutritional meals and snacks at cost, without having to maintain
expensive kitchens. It also allows directors to focus more of their attention
on quality child care instead of on shopping, menu planning and cooking.
also an educational process,” says Robert. Trying new foods can be an
adjustment for some children, “but the child care centers we’ve been serving
for a long time…know how to ease kids into it and help them to appreciate the
variety and appreciate things that they’ve never seen before,” Robert
order to be eligible for Meal Services, child care centers must have at least 3
stars or earn at least a 3-star rating within one year of implementing Meal
Services, and participating centers are also required to enroll in the USDA’s
Child and Adult Care Food Program. Meals also must be served family style at
the table as meals are not individually packaged, so that children can eat
together in a positive setting.
Why is the CCSA Meal Services
Many families in North Carolina face
the dual challenge of food insecurity and early childhood obesity. Child care
centers play a central role in the development of early eating habits. On
average, children receive more than 50 percent of their daily caloric intake at
child care. Therefore, the importance of these
meals cannot be understated. Nutrition and quality must be prioritized.
is a psychologist who has worked with many clients who have struggled with
healthy eating. “Early childhood is the time when children are developing
lifelong eating habits. If they become accustomed to eating lots of
preparations of healthy vegetables, proteins, legumes and whole grains, they
will be at an advantage for their entire life,” says Rachel.
Services focuses on creating meals that are made using local products and
in-season fruits and vegetables.
says, “We buy from Farmer Foodshare, which is a local food hub in Durham, and
they source from all over North Carolina. They get apples from the mountains
and produce from down east. And then we also source…from farmers in Orange,
Durham and Chatham counties.”
program ensures children have balanced menus that include one poultry, one
beef, one seafood and two vegetarian lunches per week.
have so many items on our [menu] list…There is quite a bit of variety and it
always depends on…what’s available seasonally…We follow the meal patterns
of the child care center food programs, and we also meet with nutritionists to
make sure we are going above and beyond in terms of the nutritional needs for
the children,” Robert shared.
newsletters let families learn more about what their child is eating and
learning about in the child care setting. They even include tips and recipes so
that parents like Rachel can try to incorporate these healthy foods at home.
Rachel says, “CCSA strikes a healthy balance of wholesome food that (according
to my kids) tastes excellent.”
shared, “We’re looking to hopefully expand what we’re doing into Chatham
County. There are groups working around the state to replicate our model in
rural areas around North Carolina. So, it’s a slow process, but people think
what we’re doing is worth trying to duplicate in other areas.”
As the President of
Child Care Services Association, a mother and a grandmother, I have been
following the advancement of HB 485, the Virtual Early Learning Pilot program, under
consideration by the North Carolina State Legislature. The 3-year pilot would
allow up to 10 school districts to offer online pre-k to at-risk, 4 year-old
children, at a cost of $500,000 per year for the next three years.
I know that every year,
state legislators are forced to make difficult decisions in allocating state
funding. I can imagine that there is great pressure with these decisions and
that legislators look for ways to save money, while still achieving intended
outcomes. With regard to state pre-k funding and the goal to have all children
throughout North Carolina enter school with the skills to succeed, it is
important for legislators to understand how young children learn and what
school readiness really means.
Decades of research show that the greatest gains made by children in pre-k occur where teacher interactions with children promote critical thinking skills as well as concept knowledge through warm and responsive relationships. This isn’t by chance. It’s by design. It’s in-person. It’s individualized to meet each child where he or she is at to build on strengths and build up areas that are not as strong.
have shown the importance of “instructional, social, and emotional serve-and-return
interactions that occur daily between teachers and children, as well as among
classmates” that result in
developmental gains across early childhood domains (e.g., social and emotional,
language and literacy, critical thinking and physical development). These
interactions “motivate and deepen
learning, enable children to organize and focus their attention and other
capacities needed to learn, and promote peer cooperation and support,”
which comprise the foundation for school readiness. It’s about soft-skill
development as well as concept development related to letters and numbers.
In my career, I’ve had
the opportunity to visit pre-k classrooms and talk to pre-k teachers. Too many
of our at-risk 4 year-olds haven’t been read to; they don’t know that books
contain words and pictures that tell a story, that letters have sounds and that
stories have a sequence – a beginning, a middle and an end. Some have never
held a pencil or colored with crayons or written their name. Some haven’t held
a pair of scissors or developed the dexterity to use a pencil or have ever put
together a puzzle. You would think by age 4, children would know colors and
basic shapes, but some do not.
The same children might know how to watch a video
on a parent’s phone, but they can’t wait their turn or share, they can’t
transition between activities and they don’t know how to use their words to
express their thoughts or feelings in a group setting – to lead, follow or just
get along with peers. They may or may not have consistent rules at home so they
don’t know how to manage themselves appropriately and follow rules in a
classroom. These are soft-skills that are learned in a hands-on experience that
can’t be learned through a computer lesson.
programs also screen children for vision, hearing, speech and physical
development and help identify children who could benefit from early
intervention services in areas where there may be a delay. None of this can
occur through an online preschool experience – at least not in an effective
The NC Pre-K program
works. Studies have found that NC Pre-K raises children’s literacy, math and
social-emotional skills not just for kindergarten entry
but also throughout elementary school and the most recent research shows gains
through middle school.
teachers are asked what school readiness means and what skills are most
important for school readiness, their top responses include: children who can
regulate their impulses, pay attention, listen to and follow directions, be
willing to try different tasks (e.g., have self-confidence), engage in self-care,
get along with peers and have motor skills such as the ability to hold a
Despite the strong
evaluations of NC Pre-K, current funding supports fewer than half of eligible
children. To me, the answer should be to adequately fund NC Pre-K so that 4
year-old children can attend, not divert resources to an online preschool that
misses the mark on what matters most for early childhood development –
effective interactions with children. Not screen time.
There is still time to course correct on state budget issues. We don’t need a 3-year pilot that diverts $1.5 million from additional pre-k seats for children. Let’s put every dollar possible into expanding what works. And, for 4-year old children, that’s a setting that promotes interactions with teachers and peers.
 The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects, Deborah A. Phillips of Georgetown University, Mark W. Lipsey of Vanderbilt University, Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia, Margaret R. Burchinal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Greg J. Duncan of the University of California-Irvine, Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution, Katherine A. Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christina Weiland of the University of Michigan. (2017). https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/duke_prekstudy_final_4-4-17_hires.pdf
Written by Kayli Watson, Spring 2019 Communications Intern from UNC Chapel Hill
Health experts have always stressed eating healthy and being active. Instilling these values at an early age can be the first steps for a longer, healthier life for children. Children enrolled in child care may consume between 50 percent and 100 percent of their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) while in care. Child care programs have a chance to provide the foundation for a healthy life, in terms of food consumption and levels of activity. Child Care Services Association (CCSA) has worked to create programs to help early care centers in multiple ways, including healthy eating and active play.
CCSA implemented Shape NC to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight. The project promotes healthy eating and active play for children from birth-5 years old by working with child care programs to instill healthy behaviors and create a solid foundation for a healthy life. Shape NC integrates multiple research-based models to provide an in-depth approach to childhood obesity prevention. It combines evidence-based programs to create a comprehensive approach in partnership with the following statewide programs: Be Active Kids®, Preventing Obesity by Design and the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC).
Little Engine Academy in Durham, N.C.
Like other centers, Little Engine Academy benefits from several of CCSA’s programs, including Shape NC. Kathy Smith, the center’s owner, shared how she became involved in early childhood education and created Little Engine Academy. “It was something I always wanted to do,” Smith said, “The previous owners contacted me to say that they were closing and to see if I was interested, and I jumped on the bandwagon thinking it would probably take a month to open. It actually took about three months.” While Kathy has been managing Little Engine Academy since November 2008, the center has only been involved in Shape NC for a year.
Little Engine Academy is also working to add more healthy meals to their menus through various programs. “We like to talk to the kids about what they eat, explain where the food came from and why they should be eating it,” Smith said.
Outdoor Learning Environment
For Smith and the children at Little Engine Academy, one of the most exciting aspects of Shape NC is re-building their outdoor learning environment. “We’re part of the natural learning initiative,” Smith explained, “We’re super excited! That’s one of the things about being part of Shape NC [that is exciting as it] is helping us get to have what is called an outdoor learning environment versus a playground.”
The outdoor area is a space for children to strengthen their cognitive, social and emotional development through playing games with other kids in an environment in which they can explore and learn. Additionally, outdoor play helps kids’ physical fitness as well as sensory skills. Little Engine Academy is excited to create an area for their kids to not only learn and explore but garden and learn exactly how food is grown. Now in its second year, Shape NC will help create these spaces for child care centers through funding and fundraising opportunities in its third year.
CCSA’s Other Resources for Little Engine Academy
Shape NC is not the only resource Little Engine Academy has used from CCSA. Chenille Coston, a teacher at Little Engine Academy, is also participating in a T.E.A.C.H. NC Early Childhood Scholarship as she works to obtain her master’s degree. There also employees who have received wage supplements from the Child Care WAGE$®️ Program. Both Coston and Smith talk about the value of professional development opportunities they have attended. “For me, it’s been really awesome. It’s always good to learn more and they provide a lot of new information for us,” Smith said, “We’ve actually incorporated a lot of things they’ve given us.”
“The trainings [have] provided new strategies that we’ve been able to use in the classroom,” Coston said as she explained a recent strategy they have incorporated to teach the kids movement. The center also participates in CCSA child care scholarships that make attending Little Engine Academy more affordable for parents.
The Future at Little Engine Academy with Shape NC
Parents will continue to be more involved with Little Engine Academy as the school gets closer to its third year of participating in Shape NC. Little Engine Academy is looking for volunteers to help remove playground equipment to make room for the new outdoor learning environment, which they will start fundraising for this summer.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Little Engine Academy to remove their playground equipment contact Jennifer Gioia at 919-967-3272.
CCSA is hosting Shape NC activities this Earth Day Festival Sunday, April 28 from 12 – 5 p.m. at theDurham City Earth Day Festival. Stop by Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St. to enjoy all day performances and tons of fun activities. Learn more here.
Learn more about Shape NC here or call us at 919-967-3272 for more information about the program.
To support the Shape NC project, click here and DONATE
Your gift to fund Shape NC workshops and events in Durham, N.C. will be matched
100% through a Social Innovation Fund Grant.