One thing I really like about the YoungStar process is to work with [my TC]. It is ‘How can we help you,’ versus, ‘Here is what you are not doing right.' It is refreshing to have an outside perspective.

- Darian Blattner, Executive Director

New Richmond Area Centre, New Richmond

New Richmond Area Centre

As Executive Director of the New Richmond Area Centre since it opened in 2009, Darian Blattner is very familiar with what makes quality child care. Darian manages not only the Centre, which offers services similar to a YMCA or community center, but the child care program within it, with 94 children from ages 3 to 8. Darian made sure the program participated in YoungStar from the time it began, to ensure it met state standards but also to see that “quality fit” into their daily routines. Darian says there is a “huge benefit” to bringing in their Technical Consultant, Kari Stroede, who is a “trained veteran of the early childhood field,” and offers a fresh set of eyes to look at the program and where improvements can be made. YoungStar trainings and guidance offered Darian’s program innovative ideas about how to make improvements and changes in important areas such as increasing diversity and in supporting staff taking steps forward, all of which Darian says has helped put the pieces in place for achieving 5 Stars in the future.

First Lutheran Church Child Care Center and Preschool

Not far away in New Richmond, Director of First Lutheran Church Child Care Leslie Thomas, also worked with Kari on YoungStar. Leslie has been Director for 8 years, with a maximum of 100 children from 6 weeks old to 12 years old in her charge, and is in her third year of YoungStar. “Kari has helped us take a look at our overall program and given us the opportunity to look at each component,” says Leslie. Leslie’s program recently switched locations and she says YoungStar components played a big part in arranging their new environments for the children. Leslie recently spoke with Kari about setting goals to achieve a higher Star rating. “The goal is to work as a whole center to achieve the next level of YoungStar,” says Leslie. Kari has shown them how to set and implement goals to reach that next level.

Working Together

Both centers expressed to Kari the need for local early childhood trainings. In response, Kari connected Darian and Leslie to plan a local learning opportunity together, as part of their YoungStar Quality Improvement plans. The conference that arose from this collaboration was 6 months in the making, involving community members and local businesses, including Wisconsin Indian Technical College that hosted the conference. “We went into it with a fairly modest expectation,” says Darian, “and ended up with just under 200 participants;” a huge accomplishment. The event benefitted group and family programs, and included two major YoungStar trainings that were a big attraction with high attendance. “We started pooling funds and resources to provide opportunities for both programs,” says Leslie, and it just kind of exploded from there…It was awesome!” Darian and Leslie agree that the benefits of this conference, now an annual event, was three-fold. It benefitted their programs by incorporating it into their YoungStar plans, provided a local, quality training opportunity to New Richmond early childhood professionals, and helped their two programs build a collaborative relationship with one another. Overall, says Darian, “YoungStar feels more teamwork oriented.”

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Center Collaboration