BETHEL, Conn. — The preschoolers at the Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Children's Center in Bethel lined up Thursday morning to honor state Sen. Toni Boucher for her work in and support of early childhood issues.
Boucher, R- 26, was recognized at the Thursday morning event with an award for being a 2016 Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance Children’s Champion.
Boucher represents the 26th District, which includes Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport and Wilton.
To thank Boucher, children from the YMCA Children's Center, which serves youngsters from the Greater Danbury area, presented her with a handmade picture of a big heart with all their handprints on it.
In addition to Boucher, the event was attended by about 30 people, including Lawrence Craybas, chairman of the Bethel Board of Education; Bethel First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker; and Merrill Gay, executive director of the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance.
Boucher said she is proud to be associated with the Bethel community.
"I have seven towns that I represent and these seven towns represent some of the best schools in the state of Connecticut," she said.
She praised Bethel for being very involved and inclusive.
"They invite us to be part of their planning process, they ask us to come and visit the schools and be a part and see what they do with their ROTC programs that are extraordinary. So you have a lot to be proud of because of just this," Boucher said.
"You involve everyone -- from the first selectman to the chair of the board of education to the superintendent to the teachers to the community at large. I think that's one of the reasons for your great success," she added.
Boucher said teachers have the most valuable job.
"Teachers and parents of teachers, thank you for the work you do every single day. I know how hard it is, how exhaustive it is, but it's the most important profession in all of society because you enable every other profession, so never lose sight of that."
Boucher, the ranking Senate member on the Education Committee, is one of 29 state legislators who will be recognized this year as a Children's Champion. This is the sixth time Boucher has received this honor.
Founded in 2002, the Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide organization that works to improve learning, health, safety and economic security for children from birth to age 8.
"We represent childcare providers, early childhood local collaboratives and a whole broad range of organizations," Gay said.
Every year, the Alliance recognizes legislators as Children’s Champions for their leadership on issues that impact the well-being of Connecticut’s young children in the areas of healthy development, early care and education and nutrition and safety.
Issues that were passed by the legislature this year include:
- Repeal of the sales tax on diapers
- House Bill 5466, which requires background checks and notice of convictions for any household member in a family child care home or group child care home
Issues that were raised include:
- Paid family and medical leave
- Childhood obesity prevention
- Increased access to early childhood programs for homeless children
- Recruitment and retention of the early childhood workforce