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Pippin Dew: Investing in Early Education Delivers Incredible Long-Term Returns

Editor’s Note: The Early Learning Nation Studio recently attended the 2022 National League of Cities’ City Congressional Conference where we spoke with early learning researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. The full collection of video conversations can be found here.

For a community looking to address various social challenges, Vallejo, CA is starting with early childhood learning. As City Councilmember Pippin Dew says, programs such as the new First 5 Center not only help set children for future education success, but also helps families be the most productive they can be.


Transcript:

Chris Riback:                 Councilmember Dew, thank you so much for coming to the studio.

Pippin Dew:                  Thank you for having me.

Chris Riback:                 I look forward to-

Pippin Dew:                  I’m excited to be here.

Chris Riback:                 Yes, I was excited to have you here. Tell us about Vallejo Solano County, and what’s the state of early childhood learning in your community?

Pippin Dew:                  Yes, Vallejo is one of the most diverse cities in the country, actually. Our demographics are 25%, pretty equally split among Caucasian, Latinx, African American and Asian Pacific Islander.

Chris Riback:                 Wow.

Pippin Dew:                  One of the great things about our community is that we celebrate and embrace all of our ethnicities and diversity. And so, it’s really exciting from that standpoint. Solano County is one of the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties. However, we are the poorest, least invested-in county. The city of Vallejo is also the poorest city in the county. We’re 107,000 people strong.

Chris Riback:                 Wow.

Pippin Dew:                  But in comparison to San Francisco, we’re small but mighty, but we’re always fighting for those funding dollars.

Chris Riback:                 Yes, for sure. Well, that’s why they have you in the job.

Pippin Dew:                  Yes.

Chris Riback:                 What is First 5 Solano?

Pippin Dew:                  First 5 Solano is a commission by the county agency that supports early learning, zero to five children and their families, providing programs and services for them in that regard.

Chris Riback:                 How does it work with the Vallejo City Council?

Pippin Dew:                  It hasn’t had a long history of partnership, but over the last several years, First 5 Solano did some research, and based on the information they had available, they decided to open the first ever First 5 Center in Vallejo and then recently came forward with an Early Learning Center proposal that-

Chris Riback:                 The Beverly Hills Elementary School?

Pippin Dew:                  Yes.

Chris Riback:                 Yes.

Pippin Dew:                  Yes. And so, that was really exciting for me to hear about. I had supported the First 5 Center and lobbied with my council and got council support for center. And now, I’m going to be moving forward to also ask for support on this project as well.

Chris Riback:                 What’s the vision for it? And why is it needed specifically?

Pippin Dew:                  Yes. Beverly Hills Elementary School is in a census track that 95% of the elementary school children qualified for the free or subsidized lunch program prior to the pandemic. It was shut down during the pandemic, so it is now an unused resource. And so, the vision is to reopen it as an early learning center that would support our children; 300 children and their families, from zero to five, and provide these early education, robust, comprehensive curriculum from zero to transitional kindergarten and preschool Montessori; the whole gamut of opportunities. So, really looking at supporting, not just those children, but their families as well.

Chris Riback:                 As I’m listening to you, I’m hearing the need for that school. And at the same time, you talked about the socioeconomic situation of your city. And what I can only assume is a full range of challenges.

Pippin Dew:                  Yes.

Chris Riback:                 Health, education, environment, infrastructure. How do you balance, how do you coordinate, and how do you prioritize so that focus can stay on early childhood learning?

Pippin Dew:                  Yes. Vallejo is, as I mentioned, really celebrating our ethnicities and our diversities. But we’re also well known for our high crime, our high poverty, and our poorly-rated schools. And so, when we are looking at how to solve all of these problems, we also have less than half of our children go to preschool. Less than a quarter of our children have access to licensed childcare services. And so, we know that by investing in this early education space, that that is going to have incredible returns long term. It will set our children up for success in the future in education, as well as their families being able to focus on the workforce development that they need to be able to lift themselves up in their own daily lives and become the most productive people that they can be as well.

Chris Riback:                 And any guidance, tips, experience for other people in your roles in other communities?

Pippin Dew:                  Absolutely. Never give up, and be like water. Always look for ways around those obstacles, whatever they might be. There’s ways to overcome those challenges. You just have to be determined and keep focused on the end vision of successful, thriving families and neighborhoods.

Chris Riback:                 I like that, be like water. You’re right, it always finds a way.

Pippin Dew:                  Yes.

Chris Riback:                 Yes. Councilmember Dew, do thank you so much for joining us.

Pippin Dew:                  Yes. Thank you so much for having me.

 

 

 

 

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