Celebrating Mary Black Foundation’s History: 2011
Mary Black Foundation Becomes a Private Foundation
2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the Mary Black Foundation’s role as a private foundation in Spartanburg. However, the Mary Black Foundation has a legacy that extends beyond the last 25 years. In fact, the Foundation was originally formed in 1986 – 35 years ago – to support the Mary Black Memorial Hospital and related community programs.
The sale of the nonprofit hospital to a for profit company, in 1996, led to the reconfiguration of the Mary Black Foundation and its significant growth in assets. In the 25 years since the Mary Black Foundation separated from the hospital, it has provided over $62 million in grants to support health and wellness initiatives throughout Spartanburg County. During this same time, the assets have grown to over $75 million.
Spartanburg County First Steps
Spartanburg County First Steps’ mission is to help all young children in our county arrive at school ready to learn and prepared for success. To accomplish this, they:
- Support evidenced-based programs that are designed to strengthen families and support children’s growth and development during the first 5 years of life.
- Build trusting relationships with early learning centers using a model of continuous improvement that helps to build and sustain high-quality learning environments.
- Collaborate with community partners to maximize our efforts and to increase our impact positively on school readiness.
In 2011, Spartanburg County First Steps and Mary Black Foundation worked together to create a solution designed for Spartanburg County to address school readiness. The result was the development, pilot, and implementation of Quality Counts.
Research continues to tell us that young children who participate in child care programs and school environments that offer high quality learning experiences are more likely to be prepared for school success. What’s more shocking is that children who are not enrolled in high quality learning programs can arrive at kindergarten as much as 18 months behind the learning curve of their peers.
Early childhood years cannot receive a “do over.” What happens during a child’s early years sets the stage for all future learning. Every moment, every experience, counts for the future quality of a child’s life. Therefore, Quality Counts demands the importance of quality early care and education programs be recognized and sought after by anyone who has a part in helping a child grow.
Identifying High Quality Learning Environments
Quality Counts can help parents identify quality learning environments as participating programs receive a 1 to 5 Star rating after each assessment based on their quality standards. A 5 Star rating represents very high quality, and a 1 Star rating represents minimum standards met. Star ratings are based on five quality standards:
- Children’s learning environment
- Staff qualifications
- Number of teachers and children per classroom
- Program administration
- Family engagement
An Example of High Quality
A small group of preschoolers gather in the block center in an early care and education program in Spartanburg County. The space is well-equipped with many blocks that are easy to reach on a low shelf. In addition to the blocks there are clear tubs containing accessories for block play like animals, people, vehicles, and road signs. There are books about buildings and pictures of buildings. The children look at the books and pictures and decide to build a “really tall building”. With the guidance of their teacher, they draw a design of their building. They take turns adding to the picture until it is just right and then set about working together to make it happen.
Their teacher sits on the edge of the block rug watching their progress. At just the right time, he will ask questions to extend their ideas and expand their thinking. He will introduce new words to the busy builders, like ramp, velocity, and skyscraper to help enrich and build their vocabulary. He will encourage experiments with blocks of different shapes and sizes to help to develop their critical thinking skills. These children will most likely be ready for kindergarten, as they are spending many of their waking hours in a high quality early learning environment. Their classroom is inviting and is designed to promote experimentation, curiosity, and hands-on play. Here the children are encouraged to work together, share their ideas, and to enjoy learning with their peers. They are a community of learners and their teacher is a nurturing force to guide their development and learning.
This is an early care and education program participating in Quality Counts. This is how we foster strong architecture of the brain. This is what a well-qualified preschool teacher does. This is how we prepare our youngest learners for the future, for success in school and life. This is how we grow lifelong learners.
Partnering for Success
Since 2011, Mary Black Foundation has provided over $1.4 million in funding to Spartanburg County First Steps to support the work of Quality Counts. An additional $2.2 million has been awarded to Spartanburg County First Steps over the last 25 years to help support their work of ensuring all young children in our county arrive at school ready to learn and prepared for success.
Executive Director Barbara Manoski says:
Several Mary Black Foundation grants were instrumental in the development and expansion of Quality Counts, a quality enhancement initiative for early care and education programs. Research tells us children are more likely to arrive at school ready to learn when they have had the benefit of a high quality learning environment. Quality Counts has grown from 18 participating programs in year one to 38 in the 9th year. The Quality Counts team assess and support quality in early care and education programs, with the goal of building high quality learning environments using best practice and relationship-based coaching. Today there are more than 25 programs in Spartanburg County who have earned a rating of high quality compared to 10 in 2012. Quality Counts was named an evidenced-based program in 2018 and is now being replicated in four other counties.
What an incredible blessing the support of the Mary Black Foundation has been to young children and their families in Spartanburg County for the past 25 years. There has been a very positive impact on the landscape of early care and education in our county due in large part to the vision, funding, and partnership of the Mary Black Foundation. They are proof that we work best when we work together.