Thursday, August 11, 2011

Champions For Children Conference Due

The state of early childhood education in Oklahoma and its critical importance to Oklahoma’s economic development will be the focus of the “Champions for Children” Conference to be held Thursday, August 18th, at the downtown Oklahoma City Sheraton, 1 N. Broadway Ave.

The one-day conference is sponsored by Smart Start Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Business Roundtable and the Potts Family Foundation.

The three entities also support Oklahoma Champions for Early Opportunities, a statewide initiative highlighting the strong link between early learning and robust economic growth.

OKCEOs will receive special recognition at the conference for their commitment to increasing awareness and advocacy of the business community supporting early learning programs.

Smart Start Oklahoma executive director Debra Andersen said the “Champions for Children” conference, which is free and open to the public, is designed for community and business leaders with a stake in education reform and workforce development.

“We are very excited to bring early childhood stakeholders together with business leaders from across Oklahoma to this annual event to discuss the future of Oklahoma’s youngest citizens,” she said. “Investing in programs for young children and their families will lead to successful students, a skilled workforce and ultimately a stronger Oklahoma economy. Events like this solidify Oklahoma’s commitment to our most precious resource -- our children.”

The conference includes several key speakers. Among them is Lisa Klein, executive director of the Birth to Five Policy Alliance. An arm of the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the Birth to Five Policy Alliance helps foster state policy changes enabling at-risk preschoolers to become better prepared for success in school and life.

Also speaking will be Barry Downing, a Wichita, Kan., businessman whose staunch advocacy of early childhood education spurred him to create The Opportunity Project (TOP). Wichita’s two TOP early learning centers provide a high-quality educational experience to hundreds of that city’s at-risk children.

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