Brenda Daley – Smart from the Start
Everyone deserves a fair chance a good education and a good learning environment to flourish. With this thought in mind, our Communiti Hero for the week, Brenda Daley is the Associate Director of Programs and Partnerships and one of the driving forces behind Smart from the Start, a family support and community engagement organization that fights to prevent the academic achievement gap among young children living in the lowest income families and communities. Smart empowers caregivers in under served communities with the right tools to break the cycles of chronic school underachievement and generational poverty.
Brenda took the time to have a sit down with us to talk about what motivates her everyday to keep doing what she does.
Communiti(C): Thank you for your time today Brenda. To start off, what is the driving force for the ideas behind the formation of your organization
Brenda Daley (BD): So Smart from the Start was started in Boston 10 years ago when we realized that the scores from Boston public schools were very low for children from low income families throughout certain Boston neighborhoods. We wanted to bridge the achievement gap for those children from low income families. So the former mayor of Boston, Thomas Menino contacted Sherry Craft, who’s the executive director to explore the opportunity of starting a program such as Smart from the Start to address that issue.
C: That’s a great answer. Tell us one of your favorite success stories and how it had an impact on you in the company.
BD: One of my favorite stories, and I think it’s also a favorite story of many of the staff who work here is of a young woman that we wanted at one of our sites, which is a residential program for mothers affected by substance abuse. She was very resistant to the services that we’re offering and didn’t want to be bothered. She eventually came around after much perseverance from the staff of the program not wanting to give up on her. And she was more than willing to work with the staff. She was pregnant at that time. She was able to regain custody of previous children. She was able to hold onto the baby that she gave birth to while in the program. She was so excited to be able to reach that point in her life. She came so far and that made us be like ‘Wow!’, this is what we are here for. To be able to help people in situations such as this.
C: That’s a great story! What are some of your top initiatives that you are working on for this year?
BD: I’m hoping to expand capacity in terms of the number of clients that we serve throughout the eight neighborhoods in Boston. I’m engrossed in ensuring that all of our programmings are being provided through a trauma lens. So all of the staff right now are being trained around trauma and mental health issues to make sure that all of the activities that they engage in with families are done through a trauma lens.
C: That’s very ambitious. And what are some of the challenges that you face on a regular basis with respects to your organization and its offerings?
BD: Money, money and money! We are a unique program in a way that Boston has so many head start programs and early childhood programs and we’re somewhat different. We’re not a daycare program and the services that we provide are kind of unique compared to some of these other early childhood programs. So we constantly have to seek revenues for financial resources just to keep the doors open and to make an impact as many lives as we possibly can. I think that’s one of our biggest challenges. Another challenge we sometimes face is securing bilingual staff to provide the services.
C: So what channels do you feel work best to reach volunteers and people to help?
BD: Currently, we have a thriving family leadership program where we engage parents who are willing to work with us to become ambassadors in the community. They provide many volunteer hours for us in terms of helping us to do outreach events and going on to make presentations in the communities to other organizations. We also take ourselves to some of the local colleges and get the word out to try to get students in to become volunteers also.
C: Finally to wrap up with a simple last question, what drives you to be a part of this organization?
BD: I love what I do. I am trained as a licensed independent clinical social worker and have worked for just over 20 years providing individual therapy for children and families. And at that point several years ago, I felt like I wanted to do something different, yet in the same line of helping. I’ve always been an ambassador in the community, willing to serve the community. I just loved what I found out about Smart and read their mission statement and it hit me, that this is what I really want to do.