More than 100 business, faith, law enforcement and community leaders are serving as early childhood champions across the state. Champions play key roles in community outreach. They are trained to give the First 2000 Days presentation, suggest opportunities to give presentations and are presenters themselves. These community influencers carry the First 2000 Days message with them in their professional and personal life.

Below are some of our First 2,000 Days Champions!

Reggie Winston

In Wake County, Reggie Winston is on a barber book tour, traveling to elementary schools to read to pre-k to 2nd-grade students. The book that he premieres is entitled, “Bippity Bop, Barbershop.” Reggie wears his barber smock and reads beside his colorful barber pole. He has his barber station set-up where the children are able to learn about and hold his tools.

Dale Jenkins

Dale Jenkins is the Chief Executive Officer of Medical Mutual Holdings, Inc. of which the flagship company is Medical Mutual Insurance Company of North Carolina. This physician owned company specializes in writing medical liability insurance for healthcare professionals.

When Jenkins looks across our great state he is aware that only 42% of North Carolinians have obtained education and training beyond high school; and, with 67% of jobs requiring advance education and training by 2020, he knows that a child’s first 2000 days and reading proficiency is essential to creating a qualified future workforce.

As part of his effort to educate and engage community leaders about the importance of early learning and reading proficiency for a powerful workforce in our future, Jenkins participated in a press conference and led a webinar to discuss policy agenda in support the children on their path to reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

Dr. Jim Goodnight

Jim Goodnight is the CEO of SAS, the world’s leading business analytics software vendor.

As a champion of education reform, Goodnight is leading some of North Carolina’s most prominent CEOs in spearheading policy solutions that will help develop a workforce prepared to succeed in a global economy. Goodnight is convinced that early childhood education and third-grade literacy are part of the foundation for life success. As a member of the Business Roundtable, he and other NC business leaders released “Why Reading Matters and What To Do About It,” in February 2017.

“High-quality pre-K lays the foundation for third grade reading proficiency which is critical to future success in a knowledge-driven economy.”

Erika Taylor

Miss North Carolina International 2015

As Miss NC International, Erika is sharing the importance of early learning during her reign. Her platform, “From Prenatal to Pre-K” focuses on ensuring children of NC are born healthy and prepared to succeed.

Darrell Cunningham

Darrell Cunningham is the Division Director of the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services (DSS), collaborating with faith and community based organizations to support county residents in need of DSS service. He is also a member of the Smart Start of Mecklenburg County Board of Directors.

Darrell has created First 2,000 Days awareness raising opportunities for clients through the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program; by prominently displaying First 2,000 Days information in the lobby of DSS offices and through presentations by local Champions at DSS group sessions.

Darrell believes that “every child deserves the right to enjoy their childhood and learn in a positive educational setting. We should do everything we can to ensure every child experiences a great First 2,000 Days of life.”


Clifford Barnett

Pastor of Warner Temple AME Zion Church in Wilmington, Clifford has hosted two First 2,000 Days Summits in his community. More than 400 people attended these summits to learn about the importance of a child’s early years. Collaborating with the Smart Start of New Hanover County, many summit attendees are now actively engaged in supporting early learning, especially literacy in their community.

Since the 2015 Summit coincided with President’s Day, Clifford reflected “If we think as parents and as community leaders that we are raising presidents, we will be more cognizant of what we put in them, what we give to them and what we read to them.”


  • We Are Committed to Young Children

    We believe that when all young children are given the best opportunity to realize their potential and contribute as productive citizens, North Carolina prospers. See who else has signed the commitment and join us!
  • George Sawyer
    New Bern
    Sawyer's Lawn Care
  • Kate Daniels
    Wayne County Chamber of Commerce
  • Wayne Johnson
    Trinity Wesleyan
  • Clifford Barnett
    Warner Temple AME Zion
  • Samantha Dooies
    New Hanover / Pender District Attorney's Office