A Letter from Jackie Didio, Executive Director

August 24, 2020 Susan Keightley

Dear friends,

Since I joined CFNC on February 3, 2020, we have all seen the world change around us. It has been a challenging time, to say the least. We witnessed our schools and businesses closing and going virtual because of a global pandemic, protests across the country due to the abhorrent displays of police brutality, and institutionalized racism ravaging our country.

Yet, despite these many challenges, our resilient team has continued to provide caring, high-quality, free preschool and wrap around services to families in Alexandria. It is my greatest honor to lead this team and be a part of this community.

What grounds me during this time of challenge and change is most accurately shared through the words of Dr. Cornel West, “None of us alone can save the nation or the world. But, each of us can make a positive difference if we commit ourselves to do so.”

Since we closed our physical doors on March 13th we have made a commitment to create a positive difference. First, we listened to what our students, families, teachers, team, and partners needed. Then, we:

• Called on our community to help provide food and educational supplies for our families. Because of the strong support of our community, we provided food for 9 weeks!

• Kicked-off virtual learning with all of our students. And, handed out over 100 tablets (thanks to the support of Amazon and our Advisory Council), so our students could learn from home.

• Supported families by connecting them to health services, rental assistance, and more.

• Committed to a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy where we reflected on our community’s love for our students but even through that love, implicit bias can still exist and cause unintentional harm. We worked on an inclusion plan that is classroom-based and families-first to ensure all families feel welcome and loved as they enter CFNC.

• Hosted our first virtual Gala and online event that displayed the creativity and flexibility of our community and team in support of our mission.

• Adapted our classrooms to provide a safe, in-person six-week summer program to ensure progress toward our mission.
What I have learned over my first few months at CFNC is that our team members and community of donors and supporters stand united. Your passion and commitment to our students and families is never-ending.

Our team has laid out a strong re-opening plan to take us into the next two weeks. It consists of three programs (instead of just our usual two):

1. In-person classrooms. 81 CFNC students will join us for the largest in-person preschool open for Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) families in Alexandria. As part of the ACPS Virtual + plan, we are working closely with the preschool team to meet the childcare safety needs outlined in their strategy including additional safety guidelines to address COVID-19.

2. Virtual classrooms. 60 CFNC students will be working with our virtual teachers led by our Program Director, Susan Keightley. Susan also supported citywide best practice sharing for virtual learning through this collaboration, we will implement the same virtual classroom model as ACPS ensuring smooth transitions for our students.. Each virtual classroom student will receive a tablet, access to supplies monthly and support to ensure accessible online learning from home. 

3. Family support services. Our team of 3 Family Support Workers will provide virtual wrap-around services for each family. This includes bilingual one-on-one family meetings, parent workshops, mental health connections, rental assistance connections, and more throughout the school year.

This upcoming year will be one of the most important years in CFNC history. Never has early education been more vital, and never has access to it been more at-risk. As an ally to our students and families, we need your support to make sure we can continue to be a pillar of support. Will you show your support by contributing to our Back to School fundraiser?

Your gift is more than just a donation, your gift is a symbol of love, of community, and of commitment to early childhood education and to the children and families in Alexandria.

Thank you for your kindness and unity during these challenging times. Our community is strong because of the passion we hold for our families and our students.

With gratitude and love,