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Our Mission

The mission of Barrett Early Learning Center is to promote and foster growth and development in children, ages 2-5 years old, by providing a high-quality early learning/child care environment that offers a variety of sensory, language, cognitive and social experiences designed to generate a love for learning and prepare children for a successful future in education and life.

Our History

Barrett Early Learning Center, the oldest childcare center in the Commonwealth, opened in 1935 as the Janie Porter Barrett Nursery School under FDR’s Works Progress Administration program (WPA) for “colored” woman working in WPA service centers. When WPA ended in 1941 along with its funding, African American leaders in the Starr Hill community rallied to keep the Barrett Day Nursery open recognizing the invaluable role it played for working women with low paying jobs and few employment opportunities.


It was a struggle until a chapter of the Community Chest (now United Way) organized in Charlottesville in 1944 and chose to sponsor Barrett as one of ten “Red Feather agencies.” United Way has been an invaluable partner ever since, most notably in 1958, when they gifted the house at 410 Ridge St. to the Barrett Day Care Center.

In the summer of 2003, the Center underwent significant changes. The Board of Directors elected to change the name of the Center to Barrett Early Learning Center, to reflect its emphasis on teaching and learning, with regard to all aspects of child development: social, emotional, intellectual and physical. This effort has taken on a renewed significance with the recent focus on the importance of preschool education for school readiness.

With enthusiasm and commitment, Barrett Early Learning Center is preparing its children and families to live in the 21st century. While preserving its legacy, we are creating enriching opportunities for Charlottesville's youngest residents and meeting the developmental needs of each individual child.

All are welcome to Barrett.



Brenda Castañeda

Employed at the Legal Aid Justice Center since 2007, Brenda currently is the Legal Director of the Economic Justice Program. A graduate of Yale University with a law degree from the University of Virginia, Brenda and family have resided in Charlottesville since 2003. Her two oldest children are both Barrett alumni.


Dede Smith

Dede has been an active Charlottesville resident since 1979 with interests and community service centered on education, environmental advocacy, and local African American history. Regarding Barrett ELC, Dede has spearheaded the funding and oversite of the extensive renovation and preservation projects, focused on a safe and healthy environment for the children, and the efficient use of water and energy. Dede also oversees the center’s urban gardening and environmental backyard programs as well as music and art enrichment activities.

Dede’s LinkedIn Profile


Maribeth Haynes

Employed at IBM Corporation for 37 years. Maribeth is the Global Product Marketing Lead for Payment Solutions. A graduate of Denison University, she moved to Charlottesville in 2014 with her family.
Maribeth’s LinkedIn Profile


Charlie Kollmansperger

Currently a real estate agent with Long & Foster in their historic downtown office, Charlie has called Charlottesville his home for 21 years. He earned his master's degree from UVA in elementary/special education and taught at Greenbrier Elementary from 2000-2005.

Charlie’s LinkedIn Profile


Berdell Fleming

A native of Charlottesville, Berdell is a graduate of Barrett, Jefferson Elementary and Burley High School. Berdell is an educator in the Charlottesville public school system with over 30 years of service.


Muriel Wiggins

Muriel has been calling Charlottesville her home since 1990, when she retired here. She is very active in the community, serving on numerous boards including Habitat for Humanity, the city's social development commission, and the school Board.


Justin Pincham

Justin is the Founder and CEO at Halcyon Contracting, a design-build firm in Charlottesville. Justin is a graduate of the London School of Economics.  Though originally from London, he has been a resident of Charlottesville since 2001. He lives here with his wife and son and their two cats. Most of all Justin loves working with people to help them build their lives around what they care about the most and the dreams they have for the future.

Justin’s LinkedIn Profile


John Wills Lloyd, Ph.D.

John joined the faculty of the University of Virginia’s Curry School in 1978, primarily teaching and conducting research promoting evidence-based education for students with difficulties learning. Since retiring in 2017, he has continued to contribute to education as co-editor of the academic journal, Exceptional Children, and co-author of reports of research. Other things being equal, however, he would prefer to be cooking.


Leslie Harris-Scott

Leslie is a lifetime resident of Charlottesville, VA who received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from UVA. She is a longtime advocate for children and has worked in the counseling field for over 25 years. Leslie has served on the Barrett Early Learning Center board for over 5 years.


Joshua René

Founder and CEO of The Spill Teem®, a design consultancy whose focus is to shift the thinking culture of organizations. For over a decade and a half, human services taught Joshua that serving people begins with serving how they think. He's been the recipient of the Program Leadership in Sales, Marketing and Technology Award and he holds a Mastery Certification in Leadership Development. Joshua's mission is to help people remove the restricting safety margins that keep them from being innovative free thinkers.

Joshua’s LinkedIn Profile