A Brattleboro Rotary Club Gateway Foundation scholarship awarded to a Community College of Vermont (CCV) student each year aims to address the shortage of child care workers in Windham County. CCV-Brattleboro student Emma Rose Sprenger received this year’s $2,500 Jesse Corum, VI Scholarship. 
The scholarship initially supported students pursuing medical assisting, but as of last year is being given to students in CCV’s early childhood education program. Foundation President Martin Cohn says this shift in focus is a response to an increasingly urgent need for qualified child care professionals. "The COVID-19 pandemic showed us just how essential our child care workforce is, and students like Emma Rose will help Windham County, and Vermont, build a more resilient child care system,” Cohn said. 
CCV provides the educational foundation for students pursuing careers in child care through its childcare certificate and early childhood education associate degree. And this year, thanks to a generous State of Vermont allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, CCV is providing free tuition for these and other programs in critical occupations such as IT and healthcare. 
Leigh Marthe, the coordinator of student advising at CCV-Brattleboro, acknowledged the importance of scholarships and other financial incentives and noted that these tools are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing the child care shortage. "If we hope to build the fabric of our Vermont culture, our businesses and economy, our community-focused infrastructures, and our future citizens and workforce, our government representatives, and business leaders must invest in real solutions to building liveable wages and compensation for professionals doing sacred work with children and their families." 
At Brattleboro’s Winston Prouty Center, executive director Chloe Learey says the staffing shortage is acute. "Only four of our six classrooms are open because we cannot find staff, and we still need to hire two more teachers if we want to keep those classrooms open,” she said. “The waiting list is growing and has about 70 families on it, 80% of whom need infant and toddler care. Our regional economic engine will stall if this critical piece of infrastructure—child care—is not available. And if we cannot attract people to the field with a competitive wage and benefits package the problem will continue to get worse. Currently, the only way to increase wages is by increasing tuition, which families already struggle to afford. Public investment is required if we are going to make any progress on this issue."
Sprenger will use her scholarship to continue working toward an associate degree in early childhood education. “I feel incredibly honored to have been awarded this Jesse Corum Scholarship,” she said. “My goal is to teach art in a child care setting with children ages 2-6. My dream has always been focused on art and nurturing creativity. The past few years have been full of inspiration and growth for me. This scholarship will help me continue my educational journey so I am able to get a degree and a certification that will qualify me to work in an inspiring environment with children.”
The Brattleboro Rotary Club Gateway Foundation established the scholarship in September 2014 to honor late Brattleboro Rotarian Jesse Corum IV, who was active in the Rotary Club for 27 years. Since 1985, Gateway Foundation has awarded close to $500,000 in scholarships.
PHOTO(L-r) Martin Cohn, President, Gateway Foundation, 2021 Jesse Corum Scholarship Recipient Emma Rose Sprenger and her son, Lennon, Brattleboro Rotary Club President Phil George, and CCV Coordinator for Student Advising Leigh Marthe.