Children come into the world like little sponges, absorbing the language and behavior of families, friends and teachers. Given the meaningful and lasting influence early childhood educators have on a child’s intellectual and emotional future, programs like the N.E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center’s (ECDC) Pathways to Peace Partnership can prove to be invaluable.

That’s why Margaret W. Humphreys, former ECDC director, decided to support the burgeoning program in the fall of 2018 with a gracious gift in the form of financial support to officiate the Pathways to Peace Partnership. It’s something Humphreys always wanted to do during her tenure as ECDC director, which began in the ’80s and lasted more than 20 years.

“It was totally unexpected, and it came at just the right time,” says current ECDC Director Katie Houser ’99 (M.Ed. ’07).

The purpose of the gift was to accelerate the partnership between ECDC and Memminger School of Global Studies (MES), which is adjacent to the ECDC’s Wentworth Street location.

Humphreys’ philanthropic commitment will advance meaningful and significant engagement between both schools by providing direct student support, parent and partner engagement, programming and professional development. Houser shared that the generous donation has enabled ECDC to host events for Memminger students to attend, including a world music artist and visitors from the Avian Conservation Center & Center for Birds of Prey. In November 2019, both schools collaborated in a Day of Caring to clean up the outdoor area that connects the two schools and the historic gate between them. Together, they installed peace poles at the entrance of the gate.

The partnership stems  from the College’s inaugural Peace Initiative in 2018, which was meant to “foster greater levels of understanding and unity with those who have differing views, and then address today’s problems by working together, rather than working against one another.” It was spearheaded by the Department of Psychology, the College’s Mindfulness Initiative and the student Meditation Club.

When Houser heard about the initiative, she wanted to get her students involved with a campus wide peace parade that would include community neighbors. First, however, they needed to get to know their neighbors.

“We invited kindergarteners from Memminger to come over for a play date,” says Houser.

It was February 2018, so the kids focused on the importance of love and friendship and created artwork based on these themes. Slowly, the children and teachers got to know one another, and, in April of that year, they participated in the peace parade.

The partnership between students and teachers in the two schools has continued to develop over the last two years. And thanks to Humphreys’ gift, this blossoming program is poised to take root and grow even more.

“This work has allowed me to still have a foot in public education, which I am then able to share with my graduate students who are preparing for a career in this field,” says Ryan Stone, ECDC master teacher. “It has better prepared me and my colleagues to help families as they transition from our program to a larger school setting. Overall, I have enjoyed being a part of the open communication between teachers, parents, administrators and College staff as we keep each child’s needs at the forefront of our discussions.”

It’s a partnership that Houser hopes builds bridges that will make a difference for years to come.

“The Pathways to Peace Partnership is a collaboration between parents, educators and students, and we hope it will have a domino effect so the message of peace and tolerance will be spread far and wide,” says Houser. “This program will help support the children of ECDC and MES to become lifelong, enthusiastic and self-directed learners and responsible citizens.”