Educational First Steps, whose mission is to increase the number of economically disadvantaged children receiving high-quality early childhood education, held its sixth annual One Childhood One Chance luncheon on November 13 at Renaissance Dallas Hotel. Co-chairs were Wendy and Marc Stanley and Michele Valdez and Gary Kennedy.

Emcee Shelly Slater welcomed nearly 600 guests and introduced the students of Creative Steps Academy, an Educational First Steps accredited preschool. The students sang a welcome song for the guests, after which Slater said, “Thank you to these students who benefit from EFS. Today’s luncheon theme is Grow the Future, and EFS does that every day.” Then, she introduced Wendy Stanley and Michele Valdez.

Valdez commented, “Wendy and I and our husbands love EFS because of its focus on children, family and community. A solid academic beginning and the support of a loving family are keys to a bright future, and Educational First Steps helps families across North Texas, regardless of income, to provide their children with the academic, social and emotional foundation they need to achieve bright futures. We cast a wide net by working directly with existing daycare centers in neighborhoods throughout North Texas and help turn these babysitting centers into accredited pre-schools. We invite you to join our Culture Club, which creates special experiences for EFS children, including by reading to them.”

Stanley thanked luncheon sponsors including presenting sponsor, ISN Software Corporation, and talked about the one-of-a-kind hand-painted tote bags in the silent auction that Fossil artists adorned with the luncheon theme. “Marc and I joined the team because of our longstanding commitment to this community. For us, the EFS mission is personal. Our children started school in Dallas’ public schools after attending many years of quality pre-school, but many of their elementary schoolmates lacked basic vocabulary skills and knowledge of letters and numbers. Every day, Educational First Steps plants seeds of learning long before children get to that first day of school. And for that reason we are committed, like EFS, to grow the future, our luncheon theme. We invite you to join us on this mission to give every child the educational beginning they need.”

Van Sheets, EFS executive director, addressed some stark realities:

1. One in four Dallas families has an annual income less than $25,000 and more than half the families have an income less than $50,000.

2. Childcare is “home” for these children for 10-12 hours a day, so these families can work.

3. Only 18% of daycares in Texas meet minimum standards, just to babysit a child, much less teach a child.

4. A high quality child care center can give these children developmental opportunities they would not get anywhere else.

Sheets added, “What sets us apart is that we mentor and educate our teachers and directors, providing the best training possible. We provide help with improving facilities to make sure they are safe and have all the things needed to teach children.”

Beth Gold, EFS board member, added, “The bottom line is that every child has just one chance at childhood, hence our luncheon title One Childhood One Chance. Poverty robs children of their opportunity to succeed. Educational First Steps gives children a chance at success and changes lives and grows the future not only for the children, but also for the teachers we train, and ultimately the neighborhoods and communities we touch.” 

The program was highlighted when broadcasting great Brad Sham interviewed four-time NBA All-Star Rolando Blackman.  Said Gold, “Brad Sham has had a 47-year broadcasting career and is known as the Voice of the Cowboys. Brad will interview NBA legend Rolando Blackman. His story is a successful immigrant’s tale. Born in Panama City, he moved with his family to the United States in pursuit of a better life. An inquisitive student, Blackman took advantage of the American educational system and developed his basketball skills. He attended Kansas State University and was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks. Rolando Blackman was a college All-American, four-time NBA All-Star, and US Olympian. His basketball accomplishments are legendary. Currently, Rolando is entering his third season as the Dallas Mavericks Director of Basketball Development.”

Sham and Blackman talked about education, basketball and giving back. Both were able to visit and to read to the Creative Steps Academy students earlier this fall, so they were familiar with EFS. Blackman said, “Programs like Educational First Steps are so important to be able to give our youngest children a chance to learn and a chance in life. We need to give them the tools, so that they can have a base to develop their talents.”

Sham asked about his second career. “Basketball was Rolando’s first career. Today, he is focused on the development of the Rolando Blackman Education, Athletic and Cultural Development Foundation, which will advance programming initiatives to foster STEM education, athletic preparedness and multi-cultural awareness.”

Blackman concluded, “Through this program, we need to teach our children about the world around them. It’s important for them to know about school, but it’s also important for them to know about the world around them and of course, about basketball!”

More information can be found at http://educationalfirststeps.org/.

Media Sponsor: Good Life Family Magazine.



Rolando Blackman, Wendy Stanley, Marc Stanley, Michele Valdez, Gary Kennedy, Brad Sham


Michele Valdez, Gary Kennedy


Michelle Lockhart, Kit Sawers, Lydia Addy


Paul Coggins and Regina Montoya


Rolando Blackman and Brad Sham with EFS students


Michele Valdez, Wendy Stanley


Jennifer Mosle, Beth Gold, Michele Valdez, Wendy Stanley, Rachel Goldberger


Jennifer Mosle, Beth Gold, Rachel Goldberger


Georgia Scaife, Jennifer Mosle, Brenda Sheets, Julie Smith


Wendy Stanley, Marc Stanley