As we celebrate a season of giving, perhaps one of the most evergreen of gifts is that a child’s potential is opened to a lifetime of learning.

In the spirit of investing in the future of all children in our community, the Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) non-profit trade association has been working with First 5 Napa County (experts in early childhood learning and development) in a public/private partnership to create and implement the Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative (NVELI). The goal of the NVELI is to reduce the educational achievement gap between English-fluent and English language-learning students in Napa County.

To ensure that every child in our community enters kindergarten ready to learn, the NVV has committed up to $5 million over a five-year period from Auction Napa Valley proceeds. The initiative, now in its third year, is gaining significant momentum in four pilot school neighborhoods in Napa County: Napa Junction in American Canyon, Calistoga Elementary in Calistoga, and Shearer Elementary and Phillips Elementary in Napa.

Exponentially adding to the positive future of Napa County’s kids is the social and economic health of our community as a whole. In remarks made at a Working Mother’s Town Hall in Charlotte, NC on April 15, 2015, President Obama noted that for “every dollar we put into high-quality early childhood education we get $7 back in reduced teen pregnancy, improved graduation rates, improved performance in school, and reduced incarceration rates.”

NVELI takes a holistic approach in working with families, educators and other community leaders in four key areas: Family Strengthening, Child Access, Provider Quality and System Change. The synergistic coordination of targeted services have made the Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative a model of how one community can actually move the dial in providing the skills and nurturance essential for a child’s academic and life skills success.

In October 2015 the NVV released the NVELI’s Second Year Report, which shows the program served nearly 1,500 children, parents, caregivers and providers in 2014/2015. In tandem with the release of this report, Kris Perry, a nationally recognized thought leader on early childhood education and executive director of the First Five Years Fund in Washington, D.C. spoke to a group of 40 local childhood professionals and community leaders. “I’ve looked at the NVV/First 5 initiative and it’s outstanding,” Perry noted during her talk. “The quality benchmarks are right where they need to be.”

Laying the foundation for a lifetime of learning: now that’s a gift that keeps on giving. NVL

To learn more about the Napa Valley Early Learning Initiative, visit www.napavintners.com/community