Laura Guilliams joins Smart Beginnings NRV Board of Directors

Laura Guilliams is Executive Director of NRV CARES.  A crisis intervention professional for more than ten years, Laura is Executive Director of NRV CARES where she works with an incredible staff to provide child advocacy, resources, education, and services to children and families across the New River Valley. Additionally, Laura serves on the Board of Directors for Smart Beginnings NRV, the DePaul Community Resources Community Advisory Board, the Western Region Child Fatality Review Team, and the Giles County-Pulaski County Community Policy Management Team.

Laura earned her B.S. in Communication from Radford University in 2001 where she first developed her interest in non-profit agencies and higher education. Upon graduation, Laura went on to develop skills in public relations, marketing, donor development, and non-profit program administration as well as human development and crisis intervention.

Shortly after entering the workforce, Laura received her M.A. in Educational Leadership from the University of Central Florida in 2004 where she further expanded on her experience in human development, specifically with college students and teenagers. After graduation, Laura continued working with college students in several higher education institutions before entering the non-profit sector as an advocate for sexual and domestic violence victims and victims of child abuse. Prior to her current role with NRV CARES, Laura worked with hundreds of children as a child forensic interviewer and multidisciplinary team (MDT) facilitator for the NRV.

Laura has developed several training programs delivered to thousands of students, community members, and allied professionals throughout the NRV and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Laura is a veteran public speaker and facilitator and continues to share her passion for ending child abuse in our communities through community education, advocacy, and prevention programming.

As a member of the board for Smart Beginnings NRV, Laura works with local agencies, businesses, government leaders, and programs to foster a community dedicated to protecting children and strengthening families through early childhood intervention and education.

2016 AmeriCorp Member Taylor Wills

Taylor Wills I am a senior with a dual degree in human resource management and marketing and a minor in history. I love working with the Smart Beginnings program, because I am extremely passionate about improving child literacy in the New River Valley, and ultimately empowering the youth. I am so excited and honored to be a part of this program and cannot wait to see it grow and develop over the course of the year. In the past I have worked and mentored children in other capacities, including, coaching youth soccer, tutoring, and working with a child care center.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Rachel Morgante-Richmeier

Rachel As a public school teacher I have seen the impact of early literacy programs have had on students. This is a great venue to broaden my experience and learn hands-on early literacy activities as well as working with the younger aged population. I think National Service also mirrors Ut Proism that is an essential component to being a VT alum. I'm looking forward to gaining many new relationships and new knowledge in the area of education.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Melanie Hart

Melanie Hart Melanie graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1991 and worked for ten years as a Project Engineer with Celanese. She is now the mother of three wonderful children and has volunteered in Giles County Schools, with the local American Heritage Girls troop, and with Life Pointe Church. She grew up in Giles County and is now working to expand the Reading Hour program from Montgomery County into the preschools and childcare centers throughout Giles. She is looking forward to building relationships between local volunteers and her community's 3- and 4-year-olds, and seeing the awesome impact this program can have on the children's enthusiasm and readiness to read as they prepare to enter kindergarten.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Julia Saunders

Julia Saunders Hi! I’m Julia Saunders and I am currently a junior at Virginia Tech studying Human Development. I heard about the AmeriCorps Smart Beginnings program through a few of my sorority sisters, and I knew that I had to get involved because education and literacy are two of my passions. I have wanted to get involved in a national service program for a while, and I knew that this would be a great opportunity because I want to teach early elementary school in the future. I am so excited to plan crafts, games, and activities for the children to have fun while they learn. I cannot wait to see the excitement in the children’s faces when they learn something new and become passionate about books with their reading buddies.


2016 AmeriCorp Member Katelynn Cioffi

Katelynn Cioffi Hi! My name is Katelynn Cioffi and I am a sophomore at Virginia Tech studying Human Development. I love to travel to other countries, play soccer, and work with children. I am passionate about both early childhood development and serving my community. I am excited to be partnering with both Smart Beginnings and VT Engage as an AmeriCorps member to focus on local children’s literacy. I believe that interactive learning is the best way to teach children. By organizing literacy crafts and reading one on one to children I hope to spark a love for learning and creativity in the children’s eyes.


Dr. Molly O'Dell Joins Smart Beginnings NRV Board of Directors

Dr. Molly O'Dell Molly is a family physician and writer. She received her B.S. from Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia and her M.D. from the Medical College of Virginia. She has practiced medicine for over 35 years and has served patients as a solo practitioner, in group practice, corporate medicine and as health officer for the Virginia Department of Health where she currently serves as medical director for the New River Health District. She received her MFA from the University of Nebraska, is a published author and enjoys facilitating the growth and development of others through patient care, speaking or workshops. Molly lives in southwest Virginia. 

Since the number one and two new-hire deficits (regardless of educational attainment) in America are reading and writing, Molly believes working collaboratively through early childhood strategies may be the only way to curb this unfortunate statistic.


Rob Graham joins Smart Beginnings NRV Board of Directors

Rob Graham is in his first year as superintendent of the Radford City School System. He earned his B.S. from Emory and Henry, M.S. from George Mason University, Ed.S from the University of Virginia, and currently is working on his Ed.D. at East Tennessee State University. In 2003, Rob left the Fairfax County Public School Division in order to return to work in his hometown, serving as principal of McHarg Elementary School before moving to Central Office as Assistant Superintendent during the past five years. Rob is currently writing his doctoral dissertation on the impact of a reverse inclusion preschool program and kindergarten readiness as he has seen the benefits of this type of program which was created while he was principal at McHarg. He is also interested in trying to find ways to provide preschool opportunities to interested families of four year old students who were not selected are were unable to be a part of one of the established preschool programs in Radford.


Smart Beginnings NRV is hiring new AmeriCorps Members

Apply Today!!

July 2015

Smart Beginnings New River Valley is a coalition of business, nonprofit, and government leaders working for wise investments in early childhood development. We have partnered with the VT Engage AmeriCorps Network for the past year and are excited to announce that we will continue this partnership in the fall.

We are hiring 12 new AmeriCorps Members who will work with us for an entire year, beginning in early September. Each of these 12 AmeriCorps Members will be Family Literacy Resource Specialists who will:

  • Work with local child care centers
  • Coordinate Reading Hour- a volunteer reading mentor program
  • Provide additional literacy support to child care centers and families
  • Participate in professional development opportunities within Smart Beginnings and the VT Engage AmeriCorps Network

2 positions will be 675-hour positions (~13 hours/week for 52 weeks). They will be responsible for coordinating programming in either Pulaski or Giles County. They will receive:

  • $2,150 AmeriCorps Education Award after completion of their term. The AmeriCorps Education Award can be transferred to family members.
  • $281/month as a volunteer stipend during their year of service.

10 positions will be 300-hour positions (~6 hours/week for 52 weeks, or ~10 hours/week for 32 weeks). They will be responsible for coordinating programming at one or more childcare centers in Montgomery, Radford or Floyd. They will receive:

  • $1,195 AmeriCorps Education Award after the completion of their term.
  • $100/month as a volunteer stipend during their year of service.

How will you benefit?

As an AmeriCorps Member, you will:

  • Improve the lives of children
  • Have a positive impact on your community
  • Give hope and support to those in need
  • Encourage those around you to give back to the world around them
  • Receive support from Smart Beginnings NRV and VT Engage

Apply Today!!

Find more information, FAQs, and or to apply visit the VT Engage AmeriCorps webpage. Please contact Mary Beth Wisniewski at with questions.


4-year-olds needed for study on children's ability to control their actions

Forwarded from: Virginia Tech Psychology Department

The C.A.P. Lab in the Psychology Department is conducting a new study focusing on children’s developing ability to control their actions during card games. During this visit, they will play some fun word and memory games. In addition to these games, they are interested in collecting information about the physiological components of these abilities.

The visit should last about one to two hours. They are looking for 4-year-old children. They offer a $10 Target gift card as compensation for parents and a toy for children, and we can provide childcare for siblings. If you are interested in this study, you may contact Alleyne Ross by phone at 540-231-2320 or email