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Meet Beth Lakier of One Hope United Child Development

Today we’d like to introduce you to Beth Lakier.

Beth, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
When I was in high school, I volunteered at a child care center. I always loved children and as a result completed my degree in Child Development and Family Studies at Cornell University. While at Cornell, I met a diverse population of students and became very interested in how we can support low-income or at-risk families. I also had the opportunity to work at a community center in Ithaca that provided programming for low-income youth there. Seeing the children’s love for new opportunities and their willingness and passion to learn and grow further fueled my desire to make a difference in these communities.

As a result, I decided to earn my degree in Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. After working in child welfare for a couple of years, I had the opportunity to utilize my bachelor’s and master’s degree at a number of nonprofits in the Chicagoland area. This was my entre into understanding what it takes to provide high-quality early care and education to very young children. I eventually spent time managing for-profit child development programs for many corporate clients. The focus of these programs was always to provide quality environments and engaging interactions with children so that they had the necessary foundation to be successful in school. While it was great providing high-quality programming for corporations, I missed being able to truly impact the families that were at higher risk, and I wanted to be in an environment where I could address both goals at once.

I joined one Hope United in 2007, and my love for early childhood and social impact were once again “united.” We believe that every child – no matter their community or family income – deserves a quality early childhood program that promotes early learning and development and guides them to enter kindergarten ready to succeed. We do this in partnership with parents, so they have the tools to continue to support their child when they move on to kindergarten and first grade. I am proud that with the support of my team we have grown the One Hope United early learning community from 6 child care centers (1 that was NAEYC accredited) to 12 child development centers (10 that are NAEYC accredited) and 5 home visiting programs.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
One of the challenges facing our industry is that, while accreditation and funder requirements seem to be increasing, there are fewer teachers interested in teaching children from 6 weeks to 5 years, and therefore fewer earning those degrees and certifications. One Hope United Child Development is always looking for teachers who are passionate about working with young children and want to make a difference in the lives of the families we serve. I encourage anyone interested to learn more at https://onehopeunited.org/early-learning-careers/.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
One Hope United Child Development Centers specialize in supporting working families and providing their children with quality early learning so that they will be prepared for kindergarten and have a solid foundation for lifelong learning and success. We know that children’s brains grow to 80% of their adult size by age 3, so these early years are very important to children’s cognitive development and success later in life.

Using the Teaching Strategies GOLD assessment tool, we evaluate our kids for kindergarten readiness. In 2015-16, 92% of kids graduating from our preschools demonstrated that they were ready for kindergarten, so I’m very proud of our success in this area.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m also proud that so many of our centers are accredited by NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). This accreditation looks at 10 standards and criteria across four categories – Children, Teaching Staff, Partnerships with families and communities, and Administration – so it is a holistic measure of a program’s quality. Only 6% of centers in the country carry this distinction, so we think this truly sets us apart.

What were you like growing up?
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and moved to a suburb of Detroit when I was 11. There are two distinct perspectives that I remember from growing up in South Africa: 1) the very evident inequality of opportunity under apartheid, and 2) that girls and women were not encouraged to participate in more “aggressive” sports.

I distinctly remember how irritated I was during school when the boys would get an hour a day to go outside and play soccer or rugby, while the girls, myself included, took sewing class! Upon moving to the United States, one of the first things my parents did was sign me up to play on a soccer team…. which started my competitive running journey.

Since moving to Chicago for graduate school, one of my favorite things to do has been to run on the lakefront. My reason for running went from staying in shape to running marathons and then actively competing in the Chicago Area Runners circuit with the Fleet/Feet Nike team for a number of years.

As my knees became a little crabby with the all the running, I started to add swimming and biking to my training mix and now primarily focus on training for half and full Ironman triathlons. I enjoy the comradery of training with my friends from the “Magellan team” and love the actual races. This year I will be competing in the Mont Tremblant iron man in August.

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Image Credit:
One Hope United

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1 Comment

  1. Catherine Hart

    October 12, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Beth, what a wonderful article about you and how inspiring you are to future early childhood professionals. Keep up the Excellent work.

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