POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie City School District’s universal pre-K students at Day One met First Lady Jill Biden Friday as she introduced herself following a welcome song from the class.
Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona were at Day One’s facilities in the Dutch Reform Church in Poughkeepsie to see first-hand how its Teacher Apprenticeship Program is helping to develop early learners and the teachers and day care providers who serve them.
The program stresses on play as a form of learning. It was designed to help raise the skills and earnings of those involved in educating society’s youngest students so there is more, high-quality child care and early learning opportunities available. This will help create and fill jobs.
“Day One is a pilot that can be replicated at the state and national level,” said co-founder Geraldine Laybourne, in her opening remarks to the crowd. “We are working with Ulster and Queens counties to expand our work.”
Cardona praised Day One and the district for forging, “a partnership to start early childhood education as early as possible. Our kids deserve better and we have to raise the bar and that is what you are doing,” he said.
Biden said that throughout the nation, people have said the biggest obstacle to employment is child care.
“You saw the challenge in Poughkeepsie, but you met it. You met the moment and came together to write a different story and invest in early childhood education,” Biden said.
“Your innovation changes the lives of the community’s youngest members. … Together, Poughkeepsie is unlocking the greatest possibilities.
Chanel Whitaker, a 2011 Poughkeepsie High School graduate, is a prime example of how the TAP program works. Whitaker attended Dutchess Community College and joined the TAP program. She worked with children at DCC and at Morse Elementary School. “I worked with an amazing team and they let me know I could do this. TAP gave me the confidence to know I can do this,” she said after the event. Whitaker is now Day One’s assistant director.
Before speaking to the large audience gathered downstairs, Biden visited two classrooms where she spoke with teachers and TAP participants, asking them about their involvement in the program and what their plans were upon completion.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Jay Rosser joined City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Marc Nelson, Dutchess Community College President Peter Jordan and Congressman Pat Ryan in opening remarks.
“As educators and invested stakeholders, our work is to prepare our communities’ next generation of citizens and leaders to maximize their potential to further galvanize the strength of our communities and ultimately our great country. To do so we must employ a home, school and community approach for our students to find success not only in school but also external to school or beyond school,” Rosser said. “Day One and other community-based organizations are leading that change and making a humongous impact on early learning. Let’s applaud Day One.”