Advocates Join Forces for Early ED Day for Jefferson Parish



METAIRIE, LA (Feb. 5, 2024) – This month, Louisiana is celebrating its third Early Ed Month with a series of events across the state, focusing on the importance of early childhood education. On February 5, Beary Cherry Tree hosted Early ED Day in Metairie to highlight the crucial role of high-quality early care and education for a strong workforce and thriving economy in Jefferson Parish.

The day was a tableau of community engagement with keynotes from advocates, including Libbie Sonnier, Ph.D., of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children; executives from United Way of Southeast Louisiana, Entergy Louisiana, and Jefferson Ready Start Network; and Jefferson Parish Councilmember At-Large Scott Walker. Speakers addressed the need for increased investment and accessibility in early education. These discussions were supported by the insights of business leaders and educators who illustrated the positive impacts of such investments on community prosperity.

“Too many working parents are forced to decide between paying for quality early care and education and other household essentials like housing and health care – decisions families should never have to make,” said Charmaine Caccioppi, chief operating officer/executive vice president United Way of Southeast Louisiana and advisory board chair Jefferson Ready Start Network. “We need all Southeast Louisiana residents to call on our elected officials, especially at the federal level, to support our vision of making sure all children have access to affordable, high-quality care.”

The event further reinforced the message through a tour of the Beary Cherry Tree center, where attendees saw firsthand the benefits of high-quality early care in action. Parents and providers shared compelling testimonials about the center's invaluable role in supporting both children's development and family livelihoods.

“Our message is one of hope and action,” said Paula Polito, Ph.D., owner of Beary Cherry Tree. “By uniting around the need for awareness of the importance of early care and education, we are paving the way for a brighter, more prosperous future for Jefferson Parish. Beary Cherry Tree was honored to serve as host for today’s event.”

The collective call to action from this event was clear: we must ensure that Louisiana's youngest citizens receive the care and education they need to succeed and in turn, contribute to a robust future for the state. For more information on the ongoing initiatives and to get involved in state actions, visit


Editor’s Note: Photos and video can be found here.

About United Way of Southeast Louisiana
For 100 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana (UWSELA) has been a leader and trusted partner in improving lives and making a lasting difference. We fight to eradicate poverty by preparing people for quality jobs, growing incomes and affording better health and education opportunities throughout Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. We have a bold vision of equitable communities where all individuals are healthy, educated, and financially stable – and we have a plan. United Way of Southeast Louisiana’s Blueprint for Prosperity guides all strategic investments in programs, initiatives, collaborations, volunteerism, and advocacy aimed at tackling poverty. For more information, please visit Find us on social: @UnitedWaySELA.

About Louisiana Policy Institute for Children: Louisiana Policy Institute for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that Louisiana's young children, from birth to age four, are best prepared for success in school and in life. The Policy Institute develops policy proposals informed by data, research, best practices and the experiences of other states to improve the outcomes of Louisiana’s youngest citizens, and further provides educational and outreach activities based on recommended policy solutions. The organization works to ensure children are safe, healthy and have the opportunity to reach their full potential. For more information, visit and follow the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children on Facebook, X and Instagram.

About Louisiana Association of United Ways: The Louisiana Association of United Ways is an association of nine regional United Ways serving 53 parishes throughout Louisiana. Our mission is to integrate action and resources for the common good. We work across our communities to tackle challenges that affect individuals, families and whole communities — challenges that are ultimately bigger than any of us and impact our entire state. We are part of a global network of more than 1,800 United Ways, servicing communities in 41 countries.

About Jefferson Ready Start Network: Jefferson Ready Start Network works to create a culture of high-quality, comprehensive early childhood services (birth to five years) through engagement and partnerships with families, educators and community members. For more information, visit

About Beary Cherry Tree: Beary Cherry Tree provides equitable access to high quality early care and education in an environment that offers a diverse teaching team, reflective of the families served. Our socially, emotionally and academically appropriate environments enable children to explore, learn and play. With the help of our parents, Beary Cherry Tree is helping mold the leaders of tomorrow!