[by Niki King, Public Relations Specialist]
New names and faces flooded the halls of the JCC this week for the first day of school. And maybe none of them were as excited to be there as new-kid-on-the-block Melissa Youngblood, who will serve as the early childhood director.
Youngblood comes to Louisville to build on a 10-year career in early childhood education, most recently as the director of Gordon Jewish Community Center’s Early Childhood Learning Center in Nashville. She started here August 12 with a host of immediate and long term plans to enrich all parts of the JCC’s early childhood programs.
“I’m so excited to be here, to be a part of what I understand to be a wonderful Jewish community and look forward to becoming family,” she said. Angie Hiland, who has served as interim director for the last nine months, will be the new preschool assistant director and preschool camp director. “We are all grateful to Angie for her energy and hard work, we would not be where we are today without her,” said Sara Wagner, senior vice president and chief operating officer for JCC. “With Angie and Melissa working together, I am confident our early childhood department will be in great hands.
”During Youngblood’s time at the Early Childhood Learning Center in Nashville, she oversaw 30 staff members, major classroom renovations, a giving campaign, installation of two state-of-the-art playgrounds, the design and implementation of a two-year-old through pre-kindergarten curriculum and re-branding of the preschool.
She was also heavily involved in the Gordon JCC and oversaw its annual raffle, which grosses $65,000, and helped design its main fundraising event.
Youngblood received her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Vanderbilt University in elementary and special education. She also received a federal grant to further her studies in emotional and behavioral disorders and became a board certified behavior analyst.
“I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I knew what teaching was. That was my passion; I never had a doubt,” she said. “I got my first job at a Jewish day school teaching kindergarten and taught for six years and learned the importance of formative years to long term educational success, thus my passion for early childhood education was born.”
Youngblood said she’s particularly looking forward this year to adoption of a new science curriculum and the healthy fitness and lifestyles program, Discover CATCH, which will be implemented after Rosh Hashanah.
“We wanted to start the year off by setting classrooms up with best practices, providing the kids with the best opportunities to grow and learn through materials, classroom environment and curriculum,” she said.
As for future years, she’d like the JCC to move toward earning national accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which is a level above the state standard.
“This is the gold standard of childcare and we want to be that and we’re going to get there,” she said.
Newly married, she and her husband John Youngblood, who oversees the Pepsi facility in Lebanon, and her son, Iain, will live in Bardstown. Iain started preschool at the JCC this week as well.