SCAN Volunteer Jeannie Smith (second on the left) and other SCAN advocates met with Sen. Manchin (D-W.V.) at the 2019 Advocacy Summit.
West Virginia is home to beautiful mountains, whitewater rafting and the stunning golden Capitol dome. But sadly, far too often when people think of my state, they think of poverty and the opioid crisis that has made national headlines. Over the years, many efforts have been made to combat poverty. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, tried to tackle West Virginia’s poverty with the creation of the New Deal Program in the mid twentieth century. Similarly, President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty focused in part on the Appalachian region. Yet in spite of the best of these intentions, poverty and low economic development persists.
During my undergraduate schooling, I interned at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission where I attended countless legislative committee meetings and floor sessions. The following legislative session, I worked in Senate Education. In many of these meetings, I noticed that the legislators focused on getting kids ready for college, but did not address the fact that some students are not prepared with the skills they need to be successful when they start school.
When I learned about Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), I was inspired by the idea of advocating for all kids to have access to early learning programs. I know that providing quality, early education to all kids is an investment in West Virginia and our future. Providing skills to kids and their parents sets families up for success. It also helps break the cycle of poverty. It is investing in hope that the past struggles of the State do not have to be our accepted future.
For the last year, I have been the only the SCAN advocate in WV. It has been challenging balancing work, school and brainstorming creative ways to get my lawmakers attention, but I am passionate about early childhood education and I know that investing in these programs will benefit my state.
The past two years I have had the opportunity to attend the Advocacy Summit in Washington D.C. By attending the Advocacy Summit, I was able to go to Capitol Hill and meet with legislative staff for my members of Congress about the importance of funding early education. This year, our group had a surprise visit with Senator Joe Manchin where we were able to directly ask him to support Senate Bill 605, the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act.
My voice is getting stronger in West Virginia and I hope I inspire others to join. I have set up a Twitter account (@JeannieSCANWV) to bring attention to SCAN’s issues in WV and to connect with my lawmakers. I may only have one voice, but I am using it to ensure that my representatives know the importance of investing in early education in the Mountain State!
Editor’s note: If you live in West Virginia and would like to get involved with SCAN’s efforts, please email Mike Salamon ([email protected]) for more information. Not in West Virginia? Learn how you can take action in your state.