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.
Lavern Weathers is a Community Social Worker at the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services. Lavern believes the first 2000 days of a child’s life is important because “without a doubt there is greatness in every child, and to tap into that potential and nurture it can be amazing for the child, parent, community and even the world.”
Dr. Plata-Potter is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Mount Olive in New Bern, North Carolina. She is currently the President of the Craven Smart Start Board of Directors and has conducted research with Latino families, including children ages birth to preschool. “Parents hope and dream that their child’s future will be brighter than their own, so the first 2000 days message is very important,” said Dr. Plata-Potter.
Corina Knott is an account executive with Interstate Outdoor, Inc. in Selma. She is a board member of the Smithfield/Selma Chamber of Commerce and the Central Johnston Rotary Club. Corina lives in Garner with her husband Brendan and their 14-month old son Henry and bulldog, Hazel.
Kit Cramer is president and CEO of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has emphasized the importance of growing jobs, acting as a voice for business and helping Chamber members thrive while pursuing the Chamber’s mission of “building community through business.” She has spoken to community leaders about the critical foundation that early learning programs play in building America’s future workforce.
“If you can prepare children early on, they are going to get more from their education. They are going to be better equipped. They are going to be better communicators. They are going to do better and you are going to have a larger array of people to choose from to work for your company.”
Lael Gray is the Executive Director of the Asheville Jewish Community Center where she began working in 2003 as the Early Childhood Director. Lael served on the Board of Directors for Smart Start of Buncombe County for six years, and continues to advocate for young children as a First 2000 Days Champion. “What happens in the first five years of a child’s life builds the brain and also ultimately impacts our entire community. Let’s do whatever we can to ensure that all children, wherever they spend their early years, get the highest quality experiences and care,” she said.
Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan was born in Spruce Pine, NC. He holds degrees from Western Carolina University and North Carolina State University. Sheriff Duncan has worked in law enforcement since 1986 as a Patrolman, Patrol Sergeant, Patrol Lieutenant and Detective for the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office. He was first elected to the Office of Sheriff of Buncombe County in 2006.
Since he has also been an instructor at the NC Justice Academy, Sheriff Duncan is a natural presenter, and has already given the First 2000 Days presentation many times. He is among the most requested First 2000 Days Champion.
Sheriff Duncan lives in Leicester with his wife, Shana, and they have three sons, Austin, Colton and Heath.