At Bright Horizons, we talk a lot about the importance of lifelong learning.
And we practice what we preach.
So last week, a year and a half after we launched our Horizons Teacher Degree Program (free degrees for teachers!), we got to celebrate our first graduating class.
Let’s just say, it was a really (really, really) big day.
There were more than 100 graduates. They celebrated associate and bachelor’s degrees – many the first in their family to earn one.
It was hard not to get teary as their proud faces appeared on screen. These hardworking colleagues went to college as they worked full-time and cared for families, proving what we’ve always said about providing education: that it appeals to employees you want to keep.
No question, this is their achievement, but it’s our good fortune. Because as our COO Mary Lou Burke Afonso reminds us, everything we do in our centers comes back to the teachers. “We have 18 year olds - people about to go to college – who come back to our centers more than a decade after they finished preschool,” she wrote shortly after we launched Horizons Teacher Degree Program in 2018, “just to find their teachers and say, ‘You meant so much to me’ or ‘because of you, I've decided to become a teacher.’"
And there’s one more thing. Apart from celebrating their accomplishment, we got to celebrate something else.
We got to celebrate them.
Because while we’ve always known how special and important early educators are, 2020 was the year the world realized it, too. In 2020, it was only because these early educators were doing their jobs every day that other really important employees – doctors and nurses among them – could do theirs. “I know my kids are not only safe,” one grateful mother, a nurse, told us about her center, “but happy and learning.”
There has never been a more vivid illustration of the value of an early educator and a child caregiver. And we’re not shy about saying that ours are the very best.
“When we launched in 2018, I said there would be no prouder day than when we were celebrating teacher graduations,” said our CEO Stephen Kramer on graduation day. “And I am bursting with pride because that day has arrived.”
These amazing early educators may have earned their degrees.
But we’re the lucky ones. Can’t wait to congratulate the next class.