Verner Center receives $1 million grant to expand Early Head Start to Asheville

Press release:

Verner Center for Early Learning Awarded $1 Million Grant To Support Early Head Start Expansion into Asheville

ASHEVILLE, NC (May 31, 2016) – The Verner Center for Early Learning — an early care and education program of distinction fostering holistic learning environments where young children and families thrive — has been awarded a $1 million grant from Early Head Start enabling the center to provide Early Head Start services in the greater Asheville area.

The expansion includes a partnership with YWCA of Asheville and Asheville City Schools, increasing the overall number of children served by Verner from 200 to 272, a nearly 40 percent increase. Early Head Start programs will be offered in two new classrooms at the YWCA and three new classrooms at the Asheville City Schools Preschool — both five star licensed centers — as well as serving 32 children and pregnant women through its home-visiting program.

The EHS expansion will include children in the area served by Asheville City Schools as well as the county school districts of Emma, Johnston and Woodfin.

Established by the reauthorization of the Head Start Act in 1994, Early Head Start provides early, continuous, intensive and comprehensive child development and family support services to low-income infants and toddlers, pregnant women and their families. The principles are designed to nurture healthy attachments between parent and child, emphasize a strengths-based, relationship-centered approach to services, and encompass the full range of a family’s needs from pregnancy through a child’s third birthday.

High quality early care and education can enrich the life of any child, but for children living in poverty, it can be transformational,” says Verner Executive Director Jacque Penick. “This grant will enable us to reach 72 additional high needs children who are at risk of school failure.

EHS is evidenced-based and one of the most impactful programs for young children and families I have ever seen,” Penick adds. “Working with such strong community partners as the YWCA and Asheville City Schools Preschool, will serve to strengthen our outcomes for children and we could not be more pleased. There remains a critical shortage of quality child care throughout the county. Our community has lost child care spaces for 218 young children over the past 18 months.  While this expansion will provide opportunities for 72 new children, there remains a critical shortage of quality early care and education in the county.”

Verner, founded in the Swannanoa Valley region in 2001, is a model teaching program currently serving 200 children and their families through early learning centers in east and west Buncombe County and a home visiting program. Verner is characterized by a comprehensive approach to education, focusing on all aspects of a child’s development including emergent literacy, health and nutrition, and social and emotional health.

Children of all ability levels are welcomed. Specialists on staff offer consultation to teachers and families to support needs of individual children or classrooms.

One aspect that differentiates Verner from most other programs is its concentration on family engagement and support, Penick explains. “A child is not born in isolation but is a part of the family in which she lives. We know that children living in strong, healthy families are much more likely to thrive, so working with the family is an integral part of what we do.”

Two unique programs have been created by Verner. Rainbow in My Tummy® was designed to encourage a radical change in the food served to young children, focusing on meals that are fresh, nutritious and delicious. The program is now being used in centers in 20 states. Mothers on the Move (MOMs) was founded by Verner to encourage and support parents to continue their schooling as a way to break out of poverty.

Central to the Verner philosophy is the belief that children at all income levels and circumstances deserve high quality early learning and supportive family services. The expansion of Early Head Start services will begin in the fall of 2016. Full implementation will bring the percentage of low income children served by Verner to 74 percent. 

For more information about Verner and its expanded EHS outreach, visit

About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.