The Partnership to receive Habitat playhouse from Belk at Southpoint

by Administrator 16. April 2014 10:23

All four Triangle-area Belk stores recently partnered with Durham Habitat’s Playhouse Program, and the Partnership is the proud recipient of the playhouse built by the wonderful team of staff volunteers from Belk at the Streets at Southpoint. 

The Habitat Playhouse Program is a collaborative effort of local corporations, the community and Habitat volunteers who together build and donate playhouses for local families and service organizations that work with children. Belk has donated $2,500 for each playhouse to offset the cost of building materials to fund the construction of other Habitat projects.  

Last week, during Week of the Young Child, we had a chance to visit the Belk store and see their volunteers’ handiwork. Patrick Hannah, Partnership Board of Directors, and Krissy Dunn, Operations Specialist and Volunteer Manager at the Partnership, joined Shelley Ifert, Store Manager, and Mark McCall, Assistant Store Manager, for the dedication. The playhouse will be on display for the next several weeks.

Pictured L to R: Shelley Ifert, Krissy Dunn, Patrick Hannah, Mark McCall

We are thrilled to be the recipient of their hard work and look forward to seeing this playhouse in use in our community. We are also partnering with our friends at Southpoint for Belk’s Charity Day on May 3rd and have tickets for sale for $5. The tickets give customers entry to the private event (6am-10am on Sat. May 3rd) as well as $5 off their first purchase, and all store merchandise will be discounted at 20-70% off. If you are interested in purchasing a ticket, please contact Krissy Dunn at

Durham Early Head Start's Male Involvement Program

by Administrator 14. April 2014 12:45

By: Kenny Robinson, Infant Toddler Specialist at Durham Early Head Start and Founder of the Male Involvement Program

Children need men in their lives: fathers, uncles, big brothers, grandfathers.  

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children with engaged fathers show better social-emotional and academic development, have higher language ability and score higher on reading achievement, show lower rates of anxiety and depression, and are less likely to exhibit violent and defiant behaviors. Numerous studies show the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, yet U.S. Census data shows that approximately 24 million children in America - one out of every three - live in homes without their biological fathers.

Men often find themselves in the minority when it comes to events planned for children, so creating a larger cross-program community of men provides a needed sense of belonging. The philosophy behind these gatherings is to create a fun, relaxed and supportive event that supports the building of relationships and trust so that important conversations may be had in a casual and comfortable setting. The goal of each event is to increase the presence of men in each participating program to establish a group of highly involved and motivated positive male role models across the community.

The first Male Involvement Program event was a collaborative effort on March 6th between Durham Early Head Start and Operation Breakthrough Head Start Programs and was held at the Lyon Park Community Center.  The event provided an opportunity for men who have children enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start programs to collectively come together to discuss issues surrounding topics of child development, mentoring opportunities and a host of other topics relevant to men with children age birth to 5. 


The participants provided feedback about future topics and agreed to reach out to other men to attend the next event, and we are excited to see the Male Involvement Program grow and expand its impact in Durham. The next event is the Bowl-A-Rama, which will be held on Thursday, April 24th. 

Thank you for celebrating Week of the Young Child with us!

by Administrator 11. April 2014 11:29

As Week of the Young Child comes to an end, we’d like to show our appreciation for the support from our local government and community leaders. Both the Durham City Council and the Durham County Board of County Commissioners recognized this annual celebration with a Proclamation.


We are Durham’s Partnership. We are Durham’s Smart Start agency. We are the only Partnership in the state with an apostrophe in our name. We don’t just operate in Durham, we belong to Durham. It is our job to respond to community needs for all of Durham’s 23,000 young children.

We have extraordinary support at both the City and County government levels. Our collaborations and mutual accountability run deep – from distribution of public dollars, to partnerships and initiatives, to Board and Committee membership. Our local government’s work in addressing the needs of Durham’s residents helps to guide our work and makes a difference in the lives of children.

It is our wish that all children birth to five in Durham will benefit from our programs, and that we can continue to serve the children and families who have the most obstacles to school readiness to overcome – namely, poverty. With a shared attention to eradicating poverty from our local leaders, we can unite around strategies that buffer children from the impact of toxic stress, we can expand access to high-quality child care, we can support parents as their children’s first and most important teachers, we can optimize health and wellbeing for young children by fighting obesity and improving dental health, and we can move forward with our vision for expanding pre-k.

Both Week of the Young Child Proclamations recognize that “early years are learning years,” and that the ages of birth to 5 build the foundation for success in school and life. There are only 2,000 days between the day a child is born and the time that he or she enters kindergarten, and support from our community and local leaders makes all the difference during those first 2,000 days. Thank you for celebrating with us!

L-R: Dinah Parker (Another Beautiful Beginnings), Mayor Bill Bell, Laura Benson (Durham's Partnership for children)


events | partners

WOYC: the importance of outdoor learning and play

by Administrator 10. April 2014 13:36

Engaging in meaningful outdoor activities has a deep impact on the healthy development of young children, and some of the most exploratory learning often takes place in nature. During Week of the Young Child, we’d like to celebrate the important positive impact of our outstanding Outdoor Learning Environments here in Durham.

Allowing children to explore the natural world provides a multitude of learning opportunities, and an outdoor play space can ignite a child’s learning and imagination in a way that is much different than inside the classroom. Aside from the well-known benefits of outdoor play – such as obesity prevention, learning from sensory experiences, and encouraging physical activity – there are many other far-reaching developmental benefits. 

Children who are playing together outdoors, making up games, and following rules are learning to work together as a team, building creativity, and establishing sound ethics and positive attitudes. Children who plant flowers and grow vegetables are developing an appreciation for nature as well as an understanding of food systems and healthy choices.






Research shows that children’s social, psychological, academic and physical health is positively impacted when they have daily contact with nature. According to the Natural Learning Initiative at North Carolina State University, these positive impacts include the following: 

  • Supports multiple development domains 
  • Supports creativity and problem solving
  • Enhances cognitive abilities
  • Improves academic performance 
  • Reduces Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) symptoms 
  • Increases physical activity
  • Improves nutrition 
  • Improves eyesight
  • Improves social relations
  • Improves self-discipline
  • Reduces stress

Bryson’s Christian Montessori School is one example of a beautiful outdoor learning environment. This morning, volunteers from PNC’s Grow Up Great program helped plant flowers and explored the outdoors with children in the Early Head Start and NC Pre-K classes. In addition to enjoying the sunny spring weather, everyone involved left with an appreciation for the power of nature and the importance of learning through play.

WOYC: volunteers making a difference for young children

by Administrator 9. April 2014 15:06

In addition to being Week of the Young Child, this week is also National Volunteer Appreciation Week! Our volunteers are making a difference that lasts a lifetime, and it is with their help that we’re able to reach so many young children and families in Durham. We could not do what we do without our volunteers, so it makes perfect sense for these celebrations to go hand in hand!

Here’s a peek at just some of the ways that volunteers are helping during Week of the Young Child:

  • Volunteers engaged the community at events like the Children’s Festival at Northgate Mall and the Pinwheels for Prevention Family Fun Day at Wheels Fun Park.
  • Volunteers are providing the essential building blocks for early literacy and language development through our Readers as Leaders program. Our readers visit classrooms in child care centers in Durham each week, using the power of their friendship to build a love of reading and enhancing the necessary language, cognitive, and early reading development required for continued school success.

  • Volunteers helped at the NC Pre-K “Blitz” Open Application Day. Along with Partnership staff and other collaborative partners, they processed walk-in applications for the NC Pre-K 2014-15 school year.

  • Volunteers are building Blast Off to Kindergarten Kits, a key component of our Transition to Kindergarten Initiative. The Kits provide school readiness materials designed to prepare children and families for the transition from home to kindergarten, and each one contains items that promote early literacy, enhance emotional and fine motor development, and prompt creativity. We will distribute 1,600 Kits to at-risk children this year, all of which will be assembled by volunteers.

  • Volunteers are maintaining the safety and beauty of the outdoor learning environment at Bryson’s Christian Montessori School, a Durham Early Head Start and NC Pre-K site. Engaging in meaningful outdoor activities has a deep impact on the healthy development of young children. Volunteers will also help to plant vegetables and herbs in the garden, which develops children’s understanding of food systems and improves environmental attitudes and food choices. 
  • Volunteers are helping to guide the work of the Partnership by lending their time, expertise, and passion for early childhood by serving on our Board of Directors and Committees.

We would like to thank all of our volunteers for the valuable work they do, as they make a world of difference in the lives of young children across Durham County. If you are interested in volunteering with the Partnership, please click here or contact Krissy Dunn at or (919) 403-6960 ext. 230.

Thank you for making a difference for young children!

WOYC: The importance of reading aloud

by Administrator 8. April 2014 15:36

The theme of the Week of the Young Child is “early years are learning years,” and we are celebrating that this week by reading aloud to children throughout Durham.

This morning, Mayor Bill Bell made a guest visit to Another Beautiful Beginnings, a 5-star child care center owned by Dinah Parker, who is on the Partnership’s Board of Directors. The children excitedly gathered around Mayor Bell, who encouraged them to participate by asking questions and making the books come alive.

The enthusiasm from both the children and the Mayor was unmistakable! Mayor Bell said that the children made his day, and it was a wonderful and enriching experience for all involved.


Our own Executive Director Laura Benson also read to young children this morning at Little People Day Care Center in an Early Head Start classroom. “Miss Laura” was a huge hit with the children! Other local leaders are reading in Durham Early Head Start classrooms throughout the week as well. 


Durham County Library is also building a love for books amongst our youngest readers by hosting story times at Durham child care centers and encouraging library card registration. So far this week, they’ve visited Little People and Teddy Bear Lane, and they will visit Legacy (Grace Baptist) and Childcare Network #57 later this week.

Karlene Fyffe Phillips, Youth Services Administrator at the Library, knows that sharing the joy of reading is beneficial for adults too! As she said: “It was a blast! I found a ‘helper’ who was, without a doubt, ready for success in school and life. He helped me with letters, words, colors, sequence and singing in my Pete the Cat story. I can still hear him asking excitedly, ‘What comes next? What comes next?’” 

At the Partnership, we support literacy and encourage early learning through all of our programs, and particularly through the Holiday Book Drive with Barnes & Noble and our Readers as Leaders volunteer initiative. Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills and is widely recognized as the single most important activity to increase early literacy. Reading aloud also helps children develop positive associations with books and learning, which helps build a stronger foundation for success in school and life.

Week of the Young Child (April 6-12, 2014) is an annual celebration sponsored by the  National Association for the Education of Young Children to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. A full listing of events is available here.

Invest in young children for everyone’s benefit

by Administrator 7. April 2014 11:53

Guest column by: Daniel Robinson
Originally published in The Herald-Sun on April 7, 2014 

I do not have children. I have lived in Durham for more than two decades and I run a small private equity firm here. I have been married for 10 years. My wife has devoted her professional life to early childhood education, and I have recently taken on the role of vice-chair of the board of directors of Durham’s Partnership for Children, our community’s Smart Start Initiative. So how did a business owner without kids end up being so invested in issues surrounding the education of young children?

This week is national Week of the Young Child, a time for us all to focus our attention on the needs of our community’s young children and their families. Week of the Young Child also provides an opportunity to discuss why I am so deeply involved and how we are all impacted by early childhood issues, whether you realize it yet or not.

When my wife and I married, we did the usual merging of belongings. While combining our bookshelves, we realized that there was some unexpected overlap -- not among books we had read for pleasure, but among those that were informing our professional lives. We did not have the same books, but we did have books written by the same authors. It was at that moment, holding two books written by Howard Gardner for two very different audiences, that I began to realize the connection between early childhood education and the strength and prosperity of our communities. The social and emotional skills taught in quality early childhood programs are the same skills that have come to differentiate successful community and business leaders from their peers.

Today’s reality is that we have a workforce development gap in this country. Despite a stubbornly high unemployment rate, many jobs remain unfilled. Numerous studies have indicated that more than half of the American workforce lacks the skills needed to compete in a global market. A recent survey of 500 senior executives found that deficiencies in “soft” skills related to communication and creativity are twice the problem posed by any lack of technical skills. As you can see, those previously mentioned social and emotional skills promoted through high-quality early childhood programs translate directly into solutions to some of the most challenging economic issues we face. The next time you see children playing well with others, learning to follow rules and listen, and exploring their surroundings, remember that you are actually witnessing the development of critical skills for which all employers look: team building, effective communications, conflict resolution and positive attitudes.

This all sounds good, but what is the financial impact of making investments in early childhood? Nobel-Prize-winning economist James Heckman’s research estimates that every dollar invested in early education produces an annual return of 7-10 percent. Over the course of a child’s life, that’s anywhere from $60 to $300 for every $1 spent in the first five years -- an astounding figure. That return comes in the form of reduced remediation costs in schools, lower crime rates and less reliance on public programs -- all of which provide economic benefit and social stability to communities. However, the benefits do not stop there. Financial investment in our youngest citizens leads directly to higher graduation rates, increased college attendance, higher earnings and better jobs. The bottom line is this: We can either pay now, or pay much more in later years.

It is clear to me that any investment we, as a community, make in early childhood will have a profound impact on all children and families in Durham. To paraphrase others in the early childhood community, we should all dedicate a portion of our time and resources to ensuring the good health, school readiness and general well-being of our children, who cannot vote, lobby or advocate for themselves and are dependent on the adults of today for their well-being.

There are only 2,000 days from the time a baby is born until that child enters kindergarten. That is a small and critical window of opportunity for us to make a lifelong impact. Please join me in being informed, involved and invested in our young children here in Durham.


Daniel Robinson is the managing director of the Atlantic Regional Center for Foreign Investment and vice chair of the board of directors at Durham’s Partnership for Children. Week of the Young Child (WOYC) is April 6-12, 2014. Please click here for more information about WOYC events.


business | economy | news

2014 WOYC Poster Contest winners announced

by Administrator 3. April 2014 16:00

Congratulations to the talented winners of the 2014 Week of the Young Child Poster Contest! We had some very tough competition with more than 200 entries by children ages birth to 5 from across Durham County. The five winning artists each received 15 new children's books, and their artwork will be showcased in the Herald-Sun and at Northgate Mall.

Left: Kimora, 2, Toddlers Academy, Inc.
Right: Gabrielle, 1, Toddlers Academy, Inc. 

Left: Skyla, 3, Primary Colors Early Learning Center
Right: Connor, 5, Primary Colors Early Learning Center

Handy, 4, Primary Colors Early Learning Center

Thanks to our wonderful panel of judges, who had the very difficult task of selecting our winners! Pictured below, left to right: Linzie Atkins (Partnership Board of Directors), Demetria Jones (Child Care Services Association), Chrissy Pearson (Durham Public Schools), and Samantha Cole (East Durham Children's Initiative) 

The winning posters, along with many other finalists, are currently on display at Northgate Mall near the Customer Service Center. For more information about the contest and our other Week of the Young Child events, please click here. Thank you to everyone who participated!

The 2014 Week of the Young Child

by Administrator 2. April 2014 16:21

The Partnership invites the Durham community to come together for young children during the Week of the Young Child (April 6-12, 2014). Each year the National Association for the Education of Young Children sponsors The Week of the Young Child: Early Years are Learning Years to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. The Partnership is hosting a wealth of community-wide events throughout the week in honor of our youngest learners and their families, so please come join us!

To kick off the festivities, the Partnership will participate in the Children’s Festival at Northgate Mall, sponsored by the Durham Arts Council, on Saturday, April 5th. We have also partnered with Northgate Mall for a window display showcasing the winners of the Week of the Young Child Poster Contest. More than 200 children birth to age 5 in Durham County submitted their artwork, and a winner from each age category was selected by a panel of judges along with votes received on the Partnership’s Facebook page.

On Sunday, April 6th, the Exchange Family Center will host the Pinwheels for Prevention Family Fun Day at Wheels Fun Park, in celebration of both Week of the Young Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month.

On Monday, April 7th the Durham City Council will present a Week of the Young Child Proclamation at 7:00 at City Hall. The Board of County Commissioners also made a Week of the Young Child proclamation on March 24th. We applaud the City and County for recognizing this week, and for their commitment to raising awareness of the needs children birth to five and their families.

Throughout the week, local community leaders will read to young children in Durham Early Head Start classrooms. The Durham County Library will also build a love for books amongst our youngest readers by hosting story times at Durham child care centers and encouraging library card registration. 

Other events during the Week of the Young Child include an NC Pre-K Open Application “Blitz,” a Blast Off to Kindergarten Kit-building session at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, and a dedication ceremony for a Habitat for Humanity Playhouse built by a team of staff volunteers at Belk at the Streets at Southpoint. A full listing of events is available here and on this flyer.

High-quality early childhood programs provide a great start in order to achieve success in school and life. Durham’s future depends on the success of our young children, and we thank local businesses and volunteers for their sponsorship and continued support in serving our community’s youngest learners.

Durham Tech Students Assemble Blast Off to Kindergarten Kits

by Administrator 31. March 2014 14:17

Earlier this month, a large group of Durham Tech students enthusiastically assembled nearly 300 Blast Off to Kindergarten Kits in support of the Partnership’s Transition to Kindergarten Initiative, a joint effort between the Partnership and Durham Public Schools. Partnership staff delivered boxes full of educational materials to the campus and students quickly demonstrated their collaboration skills, work ethic, and giving spirit as they diligently worked together to sort them into kits for rising kindergarteners.  

Many of the volunteers were students enrolled in the community college’s Early Childhood Education program. They were inspired by their understanding of how important materials such as books, puzzles, scissors, crayons and paper are in stimulating young minds and preparing them for success in school. Countless young children in Durham do not have access to these basic educational tools and the Partnership relies on the hard work of our volunteers to help us get more kits into the hands of the children who need them the most.


We would like to extend our gratitude to our fantastic Durham Tech volunteers and a special thanks to the Durham Tech staff who helped us coordinate this project: Erin Riney, Coordinator, Service Learning and Sally Palier, Volunteer Services Coordinator.

We really appreciate the time all of our volunteers devote to supporting young children! You can learn more about our volunteer opportunities by clicking here or by contacting Krissy Dunn at or (919) 403-6960, ext 230.

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