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Economic Opportunity
Health & Wellness

Early Childhood Education RFP

Solicitud de propuestas para la educación de la primera infancia

Comprehensive Studies of WNC’s Early Care & Education Landscape

We believe education begins at birth and lasts throughout life. Education can be a key to unleash the potential of opportunity for everyone, especially for those whose communities have been marginalized. Therefore, education should be equitable, excellent in its delivery and accessible to all regardless of place, gender or ethnicity.

Further, we believe that every child in WNC should:

  • have access to early education which supports their development towards brilliance
  • have every opportunity to enter kindergarten prepared to learn to the best of their ability
  • be nurtured by a well-prepared caregiver who feels supported in supporting their early learner 
  • be able to attend a school which supports their ability to be an engaged learner
  • have access to learning which leads to their ability to earn a wage to support themselves and their families.

Partner Highlights


STEM West, Inc.


Smart Start Regional Cohort

St. Gerard House

Youth Transformed for Life

Students of different backgrounds with "LEARN" written on top.


Even before the pandemic, area school systems were experiencing the need for additional mental health and social and emotional learning support. One of the largest areas of need centers around the Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS), a framework that focuses on meeting students at their levels. MTSS focuses on social-emotional learning, and educator professional development in this area is key. WRESA (Western Region Education Service Alliance) and Dogwood realized this need and created an avenue for educators to receive the training they require to serve the students of WNC. As a result of the Dogwood and WRESA partnership, 12 WNC school districts trained 200 educators.

STEM West, Inc.

To increase reading scores, students need to have an interest in reading. LEGO® Education SPIKE™ Essential sets provide relevance and interest in literacy. With funding from Dogwood, STEM West created the infrastructure for collaborative learning and a curriculum to align reading texts and literacy skills through engineering and coding with LEGO® sets.


In Henderson County, 3,318 children are eligible for subsidized child care. Finding high-quality, affordable and accessible early childhood education and care for infants, toddlers and children under five can be challenging. For this reason, Dogwood is partnering with WNCSource, a leading provider of early childhood education programs in Henderson County, to renovate a 70-year-old facility in Henderson County. The retrofitted building will provide Early Head Start, Head Start and NC Pre-K early childhood education programs to 94 children and future generations of Henderson County families.

Smart Start Regional Cohort

A Regional Cohort of Smart Start Local Partnerships is helping young children, their families, and early childhood educators increase resiliency and reduce trauma throughout Western North Carolina. The approach includes Resilience Academies to develop personal and organizational resilience cultures with Smart Start leaders, Reconnect for Resilience trainings for early educators and families, and the expansion of Sesame Street in Communities’ successful programs and Family Engagement Tool Kits to support young children’s social and emotional resilience and development. Each community within the Cohort starts at its own level of readiness, but all are working in a regional and collaborative way.

St. Gerard House

Opened in 2010, St. Gerard House (SGH) provides therapy, training, social skills classes and a wide array of additional services for individuals with autism and their families. Dogwood responded to SGH’s call for operational support to create scalable growth to serve more waiting families. Since receiving the Dogwood capacity grant, SGH has hired a full-time revenue cycle manager and a full-time “Feed The Need” program administrator. These changes have improved efficiency in their billing and utilization departments as well as placed SHG on a path to provide more autism therapy in the community.

Youth Transformed for Life

For more than seven years, Youth Transformed for Life (YTL) Training Programs have supported participants struggling academically, socially and emotionally. As the COVID-19 pandemic continued, YTL strengthened its efforts to provide a safe place for participants to learn, grow and engage in academic and social activities with support in a safe environment. Dogwood supported YTL as it provided at-home learning support for Asheville City and Buncombe County students, summer programming with academic tutoring, outdoor activities, art programs and STEM enrichment.

Education | Goal 2

Improve Early Childhood Education Ecosystem

Invest in an improved early childhood education ecosystem with the resources and sustainability to provide developmentally appropriate, affordable and accessible education and care to support ages birth to five, so that all children in WNC enter kindergarten ready to learn

Objective 2.1: Address early childhood educator workforce challenges

Objective 2.2: Equip families of early learners to support development beginning before birth

Objective 2.3: Increase capacity of partners to provide quality services, particularly for children facing challenges related to poverty, systemic racism, being differently abled or English language learners

Education | Goal 3

Improve K-12 Education

Support K-12 learning experiences with the resources and sustainability to provide an excellent academic and social-emotional education, so that all students graduate ready for college or career

Objective 3.1: Address teacher workforce challenges

Objective 3.2: Equip families of students to support academic growth and social-emotional health

Objective 3.3: Increase capacity of partners to provide supports and services, particularly for children facing challenges related to poverty, systemic racism, being differently abled or English language learners

Education | Goal 4

Support Higher Education Career Readiness

Work in tandem with Economic Opportunity Strategic Priority to invest in career readiness at the community college and university levels

Objective 4.1: Close the educational attainment gap in WNC, staying on pace with regional and county-specific projections (myFutureNC 2030).