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Passion for the field defines Partnership ED’s commitment to children

The time between infancy and five years old is critical to a child’s mind — and future. Jessica Burnham has dedicated her career to providing the tools to learn for life to children in their years before kindergarten.

Burnham is the new executive director of Beaufort-Hyde Partnership for Children, a nonprofit dedicated to maximizing children’s development in the first five years of life — through engagement, through play, through language — so they’ll have the skills needed on Day 1 of school. She comes to the role from Martin-Pitt Partnership for Children, a lateral move that brings her closer to her roots.

“I grew up in a rural town in North Carolina, and Beaufort County, Hyde County, felt like home,” Burnham said.

Three months in, she’s still learning the new environment, drawing on community feedback to inform her next direction. There are existing partnerships that can be expanded, and new ones to be found, all working toward the same simple goals: to make sure young children are in quality settings and that every child is prepared for kindergarten. Those who aren’t risk falling further behind as the school years pass.

It takes collaboration: connecting parents to resources and childcare providers; it takes a community working together in what will only result in the strengthening of families, according to Burnham.

“It’s not just the work of the Partnership; it takes a community to raise a child,” Burnham said.

The earliest interactions in that community are with early educators: childcare providers in the home and in daycares.

“They’re setting the stepping stones for our children to be lifelong learners,” Burnham said, adding that it’s a field that calls to certain people. “You have to have passion and drive for this field. You have to have passion and drive to change lives. It’s not just a paycheck, it’s a love for this field.”