STRONG ACC discusses Early Childhood objectives at town hall meeting last week

Published 3:46 pm Monday, December 13, 2021

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Members of the community recently participated in a town hall meeting at the Elizabethton Public Library as a way to learn more about new early education initiatives around the area.

The Striving Toward Resilience and Opportunity for the Next Generation Accountable Care Community (STRONG ACC) hosted this event, and allowed for an interactive opportunity for those in attendance to learn more about what Carter County is already doing in terms of early education as well as discuss what can be improved upon within the community.

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“We are a collective impact coalition that was started in 2018 to help create brighter futures for youth, families, and communities throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia,” said Mark Cruz, director of the STRONG ACC. “We work hard to build the foundation and put in place the traditions and community characteristics that give families with young children a good start as well as help support early educational success and progress.

“We are not a fly by night coalition, we are in this for the long-term and we want to help bring about health, well-being, and quality of life for the next generation throughout the region,” said Cruz.

The coalition partners with over 300 organizations including the Carter County Drug Prevention Coalition.

“Thinking of that next generation, one of the things we are doing is a project called Bright Start Initiative, which is an initiative powered by a state wide organization known as the Tennesseans for Quality Early Education,” said Cruz. “They have selected six communities around the state to participate in a planning process around early childhood learning that will result in the creation of a plan by June of 2022 and an implementation of the plan by 2025.”

The town hall also included small group discussions to determine what steps need to be taken in Carter County to advance early childhood development in the area.

Among the questions that group facilitators asked participants included topics such as “How does Carter County help build parenting skills and support parents in having the resources they need to build happy, healthy lifestyles?”

Other topics brought up in small groups had to do with public school compared to home school programs and how each have their benefits and ways to advance early education.

The Elizabethton/Carter County community was the first town hall meeting hosted by STRONG, with the organization making trips to five other areas across the state in the coming weeks.