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Tomorrow Talks | Access to Early Childhood Education in Greater Charlottesville

Fri. Dec 8 | 9:00 am Coffee | 9:30 - 11:30 am Talks

Vault Virginia, 300 E Main St, Charlottesville

This workshop is presented with United Way of Greater Charlottesville, our partner in the Society & Justice program.

In April 2023 at the Tom Tom Festival, United Way of Greater Charlottesville convened a group of parents, educators, researchers, and leaders from local government and business communities to discuss barriers to access in early childhood education.

Participants recognized affordability as a key barrier, but also worked hard to explore other issues that could provide clear next steps to equity and access. Many agreed that increasing the number of childcare slots available on a community level, especially for infants and toddlers, would have a profound impact on the lives of children and families in our region.

In this follow-on conversation, we will learn about local projects making meaningful advances in the field, and utilize the Tomorrow Talks format to create space for continued connection and education about how to support these important projects.

All tickets are donation based on a sliding scale ($15 - $35). Net proceeds will go to the projects.


Pilgrim Baptist Church introduced a pilot childcare program in March 2021 within the 10th and Page neighborhood. Parents from the community have the opportunity to provide their children with a unique Montessori learning experience at no cost and to integrate some of that education into their home life. As the children continue to learn and make progress, the program at PBC plays a vital role in their development, helping them gain independence and self-sufficiency.

Pastor Chris Cooper serves as the Senior Pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church and has a longstanding commitment to community involvement and empowering individuals with essential life skills for success. Chris's vision for the community has consistently emphasized the importance of initiating the education process at an early stage, aiming to provide children in underserved communities with the necessary tools for a more successful educational journey, as it had a significant impact on Chris's own life.

Pastor Wendy Cooper is presently the Co-Pastor of Pilgrim Baptist Church and has discovered fulfillment in serving families in and around the Charlottesville area through various non-profit organizations and church ministries. She has a strong track record of building relationships with government and local businesses, fostering mutual support between the community, leadership, and those in need. Her participation in serving on the boards of community organizations and various planning committees further strengthens the bonds within the community.


Rita’s Bright Beginnings provides care for children aged 6 weeks to 4 years old in Charlottesville, VA. They are dedicated to creating a safe, nurturing, stimulating, and welcoming environment for all children. Learning is believed to occur best through play, independent and self-guided activities, and small groups throughout the day. Their unique programs incorporate a variety of educational theories, always prioritizing the child's best interest and allowing for hands-on, experiential learning.

Karita Cunningham is the Owner and Director of Rita's Bright Beginnings. With over 12 years of experience in the daycare field, she has a genuine passion for her work. She finds great joy in witnessing the positive impact that Rita's Bright Beginnings has on the community and the positive atmosphere it creates for each child. The daycare, under her leadership, provides a safe and nurturing environment where children wake up excited to come and learn.


Ben Wilkes is the Director of Development at United Way of Greater Charlottesville. He is fueled by people and the possibilities we create through collaboration and belonging. Prior to his role at United Way, Ben was Program Manager at the Tom Tom Foundation, helping develop new models for community engagement and impact.

Paul Beyer is the founder of the Tom Tom Foundation and Tom Tom Festival, and in his role as executive director, is responsible for its strategic vision and community partnerships. Beyond Tom Tom, Paul works on a variety of gatherings and events ranging from festivals, dance parties, dinner series, meditations, men's groups, conferences, seminars, and concerts.


The United Way of Greater Charlottesville actively seeks innovative approaches to address critical local issues, bringing funding, advocacy, and volunteerism to create better outcomes. Their priorities guide both the grants provided to community agencies and their own direct services, focusing on making a substantial difference in areas related to financial stability, school readiness, and connected communities.




This year-long series picks up critical themes from our April Festival and continues the conversations to create an impact in Charlottesville. Each Tomorrow Talk session is facilitated with an emphasis on participation, connection, and new collaborations.

Tomorrow Talks begin with a connection exercise or meditation and proceed into a presentation and breakout activities. They aim to impart knowledge that is practical and relevant to people's lived experience; combining academic or theoretical insights, alongside pragmatic tools, and experiential and somatic learnings.


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