Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Giving Program

From preschool teacher to program officer

“Vanguard?! You mean the company that manages my retirement savings?”  This is the usual response I hear when I tell people where I work now.  I have to admit, starting my career as a preschool teacher and social worker seems like a long way from being a crew member at Vanguard. However it’s exactly the base of knowledge and skills I need to serve in my current role as a Program Officer, co-leading the Vanguard Strong Start for Kids™ grant making portfolio.

Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Giving Program

Where I Started

It was 1996, and I was entering the fall semester of my junior year in college.  I’d spent the summer before as a camp counselor at a local child care center in my hometown, and I was just entering my major in early childhood education.  I’d gotten a job as a preschool assistant teacher at a child care center not far from my college campus, and I LOVED it. I loved working with the lead teacher to plan lessons that used play as a learning tool, working with families to understand their child’s progress and development, and using what I was learning in my teacher training program to guide how I interacted with the children in my care. I didn’t know then, but those first days in that classroom would set the foundation for my professional career across multiple settings.

After graduating and teaching pre-kindergarten for a while, I moved into one-on-one case management helping low-income families’ access public dollars for child care. From there, I spent several years working at child advocacy organizations helping to shape public policies that benefitted young children and families at the state and federal level. While not exactly the same as a teacher-student relationship, these positions continued to build the foundation of understanding that’s needed to steward philanthropic dollars into the early learning sector.

Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Giving Program

Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Program

While it seems like my experiences might be far from the core business of Vanguard, they’re actually quite similar. Vanguard’s crew are charged with acting as stewards of our clients’ hopes and dreams through smart, sensible, and aligned investment management. And we also are encouraged to be stewards within our communities, so it made sense that the signature crew and corporate philanthropic program would employ Vanguard’s long-held strategy: investing early pays off later. The Strong Start for Kids mission is to boost kindergarten-readiness for low income young children, primarily within Philadelphia, PA, Charlotte, NC, and Phoenix, AZ (our biggest U.S. sites).  Empirical evidence shows that investing in high-quality programs for young children and families in the 0-5 years is necessary for developing educated, healthy, productive citizens that thrive in a global economy.

Equally as important as a long-term societal benefit is the fact that high quality early learning opportunities change the trajectory of individual lives and families. I have seen the impact of high-quality opportunities as an early learning professional and I also see it every day as the parent of two young daughters. Children develop the foundation of their cognitive abilities and character during their first five years. Their brains are literally being built by all of the experiences happening in their lives – good or bad! Nurturing relationships that make children feel safe and loved, while enabling them to experience the world around them, builds stronger brains. By supporting organizations and projects that enhance parent/caregiver skills, improve learning opportunities outside of homes, and coordinate services so that families have easier access, the Strong Start for Kids program works to help young children build the foundation for learning they need to thrive.

Vanguard Strong Start for Kids Giving Program

I always knew that my life’s calling had to do with educating, empowering, and uplifting young children and their families. I didn’t know that calling would play out like it has and, ultimately, lead me to Vanguard. I’m lucky to work at an organization where my passion for building community aligns with company values.

-Rashanda P.

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