Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Lisa Mullins left a factory job a few years back because she wanted to spend more time with her children.

She wasn’t expecting it, but becoming a substitute teacher at her kids’ elementary school led her to a new career in early childhood education. After she joined the staff in the school’s pre-Kindergarten program, she was hooked.

“After working there for a while, you kind of figure out which age group you like,” Mullins said. “The little ones were my favorite.”

Mullins has worked hard to obtain additional training that could benefit her students. She’s earned both a Career Studies Certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Virginia Western Community College. She’s also pursuing a Bachelor’s of Independent Study degree at James Madison University, which will allow her to instruct pre-K through third grade classes in Virginia.

Her new career would not have been possible without financial support from the Davenport Institute for Early Childhood Development, which invites teachers who work with young children to pursue low-or-no-cost certificates and degrees in early childhood education from four community colleges: Virginia Western, Danville, New River, and Patrick Henry Community College.

“I worked in a factory for 15 years and made probably three to four times what I make now. When you take that much of a pay cut, there’s no way you can fund yourself to go back to school,” Mullins said. “Davenport offering the money is the only reason I chose to go back. I couldn’t have done it otherwise.”

Davenport Scholars gathered at VWCC for an end-of-semester celebration in the spring.

Through funding from the Davenport Institute, students can earn either a Career Studies Certificate in early childhood development or a similar certificate with an emphasis in infant and toddler care. Both courses require the completion of six courses, meaning most students finish the program in three semesters. In addition to covering educational costs, the Davenport Institute provides students with job coaching and mentoring opportunities.

Founded by Ben Davenport, a Pittsylvania County businessman and entrepreneur, and his wife, Betty, the Davenport Institute aims to improve the quality of early childhood education in Southwest Virginia. Upon its launch in 2016, Ben Davenport seeded the institution with $1 million, which has been used to create a program in partnership with the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education and Virginia’s Community Colleges.

Learn more.

Jim Babb

Jim Babb works for Virginia's Community Colleges in the Office of Strategic Communications.

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