Reading Hour AmeriCorps Member Kayla Schroeder

My name is Kayla Schroeder and I am a sophomore majoring in History.  I am a part of AmeriCorps because I love to give back to my community.  By putting full belief in Virginia Tech’s motto, Ut Prosim, I strive to serve and help my friends, family, and neighbors both in Montgomery County, where I reside in Staunton, Va, and wherever else my assistance is needed.  This year I will be a part of the Smart Beginnings team helping childcare centers in Blacksburg and Christiansburg by helping further develop children’s reading skills.  I have previously helped with the Boys and Girls Club of Christiansburg and Shawsville with the same aspect and now I cannot wait to make a difference with young children.


Reading Hour AmeriCorps Member Mary Beth Wisniewski

Mary Beth Wisniewski Mary Beth Wisniewski will be serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer to coordinate Reading Hour programs. She is a 5th year senior at Virginia Tech studying Human Development. She is excited to engage with the New River Valley community in long-term service relationships as she facilities early childhood development, something she is hoping to continue to do upon her graduation in May of 2015.

Annual Conference

Kristi Snyder and Ed Lawhorn at the Smart Beginnings state conference David Moore, Kristi Snyder and Kate Baker had the opportunity to represent Smart Beginnings NRV at the annual Smart Beginnings Conference held in Roanoke. Del. Joseph Yost and Ed Lawhorn were also able to attend the Leaders Institute and Business Lunch on day one of the conference. The theme of the conference was “Making the case: Building Will and Public Engagement.” It was a refreshing two days of learning, collaborating and networking.

David Moore leading coalition speed dating at the Smart Beginnings conference Delegate Yost and David Moore at the Smart Beginnings state conference    




Brittany Newman

Brittany is currently working as a social media marketing intern for Smart Beginnings. She is a senior at Virginia Tech studying Public Relations, Marketing and Event Planning. She has been responsible for a lot of the new Facebook posts and tweets that have shown up on our social media sites. Don’t miss out on great early childhood news, research and fun. If you haven’t already, like Smart Beginnings NRV on Facebook.


Molly Upthegrove

Molly graduated from UVA with a Master of Teaching and then went on to earn a Master of Science in Social Work at the University of Tennessee.  As a former kindergarten teacher, she has first-hand knowledge of the value of early childhood education, and is glad to help educate others on its importance. She has begun to tackle the daunting task of taking early childhood data for the New River Valley and turning it into something that is both visually appealing and compelling.



To read is to empower

Volunteer reading to her reading friend Reading Hour has officially kicked off! Smart Beginnings has partners with three local child care centers, Valley Interfaith Child Care, Rainbow Riders and Blacksburg Head Start, to provide volunteers with a convenient, yet meaningful volunteer experience. Over the course of two months the volunteers with have met with the child for 30 minutes each week. During that time, the volunteer reads out loud to their reading friend, improving literacy skills and imparting a love of reading.

The pilot program has 12 fantastic volunteers and will run until mid-November. Our volunteers are diverse, from high school students to corporate employees to retirees. This is a program that has been a lot of fun for both the volunteers and the children. The 3 and 4 year olds have shown an immense interest in the books and love the one-on-one attention they receive from the volunteers. The volunteers have enjoyed the chance to take a short break from their day to read the children stories they loved growing up to their reading friend.  At the end of the sessions, sometimes it hard to tell whose smile is bigger, the child or the volunteer.

Child Fest

Smart Beginnings had the pleasure of coming alongside Giles Early Education Project, GEEP, to support Child Fest. Child Fest was a family event meant to celebrate the beginning of the new school year and build community in Giles County. Families with children enrolled in local preschool and child care programs were invited to join in as were many local service providers. There was a host of fun activities geared towards having the adults interacting and playing with their children. The event was a huge success with an estimated 200+ people attending.

Child a Childfest Smokey at Childfest Bubble play at childfest