December 1, 2017 – Cindy Larson, Deputy Director of the Rhode Island office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), was presented with the “2017 Sue Connor Special Friend of Rhode Island’s Children” award by the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children (RIAEYC) during the organization’s 51st opening banquet of their Annual Rhode Island Early Childhood Conference. Larson received the award for her lifetime of work as an early childhood advocate.
Nominations come from the Rhode Island education community for individuals who have made a significant contribution to early childhood education in Rhode Island over the span of a career. In presenting the award, Lisa Hildebrand, Executive Director of the RIAEYC, acknowledged Larson’s advocacy and leadership in early learning and child care in Rhode Island, her role as the founding director of LISC’s Rhode Island Child Care & Early Learning Facilities Fund (RICCELFF), and her long history of work in education.
“We are presenting this award in recognition of her leadership, commitment, and truly tireless efforts working on behalf of the early child care and education community, as well as the children and families of Rhode Island,” said Hildebrand.
“Cindy led the team that conducted a comprehensive study of child care and early learning facility infrastructure in Rhode Island. She was instrumental in receiving special permission to use Race to The Top dollars toward facility improvement and making funding available to help address critical health and safety issues across Rhode Island’s early childhood centers,” said Hildebrand.
In accepting the award, Larson noted that there is still work to be done despite broad acceptance on the critical importance of the issues around early childhood.
“Thank you all so much, this honor means a great deal to me,” said Larson. “It should be really easy to be an early childhood advocate – all the research suggests that the early years of life are the most critical; we have widespread agreement with the importance of early education; we know that quality child care is essential to building a workforce and having a strong economy.
“Everybody agrees on all these things, and yet every single day we have programs that are struggling just to make ends meet. So the money is not connecting to what we know, despite our best efforts. We welcome all the new champions and I hope your voices will be loud and strong. We will continue to advocate strongly with you for the resources that you need to make a difference in the lives of children.”
LISC is the nation’s largest community development intermediary. In 2001, LISC Rhode Island worked with a collaborative of public and private partners to launch the Rhode Island Child Care Facilities Fund (RICCFF), an initiative that Larson helped to establish and that she continues to oversee today. Since its inception, the RICCFF has raised and invested more than $20 million, leveraging an additional $30 million, in Rhode Island’s early care and education community and has provided technical expertise and training to hundreds of organizations and individuals. Larson’s passion for seeing the early childhood profession receive resources and recognition comes from more than three decades of work in the field which includes time spent as a classroom teacher, education manager, child care center and Head Start director, executive director, mentor and advocate.
The Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children (RIAEYC) is the state affiliate of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is dedicated to improving the well-being of all young children, with particular focus on the quality of educational and developmental services for young children. RIAEYC is the managing agency for BrightStars, RI’s child care quality rating and improvement system.