Children Are Her Cause: Bernitta Burnett ’18
In January 2020, Educare, a nationally based early childhood educational organization, opened a satellite school in Springfield, MA. Educare has a simple goal: establish a network of early learning champion schools around the country that are focused on children as young as infants to five years of age. They established their first school in Chicago, IL, in 2000, and now, 20 schools later, the results are stunning. The Springfield school is the most recent addition to this initiative (underwritten by the likes of the Gates Foundation and the Davis Foundation) and is proudly led by Bay Path's own Bernitta Burnett '18. She states: "I am exactly where I need to be in my life."
The Springfield native’s professional journey, like so many others, was not a straight line. A born caregiver, Bernitta worked at Baystate Hospital and then the American Heart Association (AHA). In fact, at the AHA she rose from director to regional vice president, even though she didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. She did it through hard work and determination.
Bernitta had always wanted to earn a degree, but family and life got in the way. And, in her words, “It was not my time.” When she learned about The American Women’s College and its online program, she knew it was for her. “I was so grateful to be online. I knew I couldn’t sit in a classroom. I was way passed that experience. Learning online let me work fulltime, care for elder parents, and be there for my daughter.”
Then Bernitta went on to earn her MS in Leadership and Organizational Studies at Bay Path. All online, of course. “This program solidified my life. It gave me confidence. It gave value to my life and work experience. And I learned how to negotiate and collaborate. When the Educare position crossed my path, my graduate degree gave me the permission to say to myself, ‘You can do this.’ My degree helped me to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Today, Bernitta heads Educare in Springfield. The school has 141 children and works closely with parents and families to give each child the care and support they need. “At Educare, we know parents are the children’s first and most important teachers. We have to enrich the whole family, and by doing so we enrich the child. The longer children are in Educare, the better they are prepared to succeed in school in the long run.”
Bernitta, and others as well at Educare, are not only changing the trajectories of children in her care, she is changing the trajectories of communities.