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Happy Two Years To Sensational Minds: Early Learning Academy LLC!!

What a better way to kick off the new blog than to look back at the last two years. Where they came from, how they started, and what they're working towards...

In April of 2018, Owner and Co-Director, Parvanah Withee, noticed that a childcare center was for sale. She had dreamed of opening her own daycare for years. She started work in the childcare field in 1999, earned her degree in Early Childhood Education and worked her way up and became a lead classroom teacher, program manager. Her career lead her to becoming certified from the National Children's Advocacy Center as a Forensic Interviewer of Children, and is 1 of only 30 interviewers in the State Maine. She continued to complete more trainings and certifications so that she could become a fully trained Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate. As the years went by she became supervisor to: Supervised Visitation Center for Domestic Violence Victims and his/her children, Sexual Assault Program, Transitional Housing Services, Autism Case Management Services, Supportive Visitation Services for Children in Custody of DHHS, Community Partnership for Protecting Children Program, and the Children’s Advocacy Center. After nearly 7 years in a management position that allowed Parvanah to advocate for children, families and underserved individuals, her dreams of opening a childcare center were reignited when she came across childcare center for sale in Newport,ME.

Parvanah quickly enlisted the help of her best friend and co-worker for many years, Billie-Jo Blanchard. Head Teacher Billie-Jo had been supporting children and families for over 14 years and held numerous positions within the Penquis Community Action Program. She holds her Child Development Associate Credential and has continued to foster her professional development by completing 30 or more continuing education hours every year since. She is fully trained in the OWL curriculum, and has years of experience in curriculum design and implementation. Billie-Jo has been trained in multiple disciplinary approaches such as Conscious Discipline, and is known for her amazing ability to connect with children in a way that only comes from the heart. Billie-Jo was hesitant to leave a company that she had been with for years, but she was ready to dive into a new career path with her best friend.

Lastly, the final piece to the puzzle was to add another expert in early childhood development, an Occupational Therapist, and Parvanah's daughter-in-law, Carolann Prescott. Carolann is our Co-Director, and Outpatient Pediatric Occupational Therapist who held numerous roles in the Pediatric field for the past 7 years. Carolann had worked her way through college as a Behavioral Health Professional, working with children with Autism, ADHD, Depression, Anxiety, etc. Carolann graduated with her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Psychology in 2015, and her Master’s of Science Degree in Occupational Therapy in 2016. Carolann spent 9 months in Reno, Nevada, providing Occupational Therapy services to a caseload of 50 plus students weekly before returning home to Maine and accepting a job at RSU 63 as the sole Occupational Therapist for the district, as well as a position at Acadia Hospital as an Occupational Therapist during weekend, school vacation, and summer vacation days. Carolann's lifelong goal has been to open a daycare which is inclusive for any and all children, and provides onsite services in order to help them become independent individuals in the future. Carolann did not think that this dream would be coming true so fast, but when the opportunity arose, she jumped on it.

It all happened extremely fast. Together with they looked at the building Parvanah had stumbled across and decided that they would set aside their fears of opening a business and go after what they were truly passionate about. They knew it was going to be a lot of hardwork and dedication, but the idea of being able to create their own childcare center in order to impact the families and children of community in a positive way outweighed any fears.

Once the purchase began the real work came. Many late nights, long meetings, and 14 hour days were put into the development of their business, their goals and their vision. In order to accommodate the families that had been attending the existing childcare prior to purchase, they decided to only close for 1 week in order to complete the renovations needed to create their vision. They put their years of experience, and education in childhood development to create a developmentally appropriate, sensory friendly, and environmentally safe and clean environment for the children who would be attending. The building started as a large open space, so they built walls for noise reduction as well as to provide separation between classrooms for a less overwhelming sensory experience. Many of the walls were neon colors, so they were all painted to be more neutral, calming tones. They also ripped up any carpet in the building and replaced it with new floors, and cleaned and sanitized the entire building from top to bottom.Even though they only had 7 days to complete this work, they were able to accomplish their goals thanks to the helping hands from close friends and family.

Infant Room After

Infant Room Before

Infant Room After

Toddler Room

Preschool Room

OT Room

The center opened on June 11, 2018 at less than half capacity with 20 children and by the 1 year anniversary maximum capacity was reached at 49, with a waitlist. Of course, along the way there were bumps in the road- there weeks it was difficult to make ends meet, but it was the passion and drive that kept them going. The harder they worked, the more quality care was provided, more connections were made with families, the more word spread.

They are so grateful for the original families that attended the center upon opening, because these families trusted them to fulfill their vision, and to provide the quality care they spoke of. It is because of the kind words spread by these families that helped Sensational Minds become the business they have today.

Even though capacity had been reached, they wanted to continue to immerse themselves into the community and use it as an integral learning tool for the children they serve. Over the last two years, they have: participated in Trunk or Treat, raised over 113 parcels for the local food pantry, an officer from Newport PD paid a visit and educated the children on her role in the community, and a Learning Center community member and citizen of the Penobscot Nation came to read a book written by a Passamaquoddy author for Indigenous People's Day.

Although they are incredibly happy, and grateful with how far they've come as a business but they are not finished growing their business. It is their goal to continue to be better, do more, and provide the absolute BEST education for the children who attend to the center both in academic areas, as well as social-emotional skills so that they can be prepared as much as possible for their school careers, and life in general. In order to do this they want to better include the ENTIRE family in their child's development. There are no handbooks on parenting, fostering, and/or adopting and a lot of the information provided on the internet contradicts itself. Carolann will be creating free workshops for the parents/guardians of Sensational Minds: Early Learning Academy LLC in order to further educate parent/guardians on hot topics such as: behavior management, picky eating, sleep routines, promoting independence at home, and much more. In order for the children who attend the center to have the best developmental outcomes they possibly can, the goal is to create strong relationships with families, and provide the resources and materials they need to feel more confident and successful as parents as well.

What else is in their future? We're not sure yet but there are LOTS of ideas floating around. COVID-19 definitely altered the centers path, but they have only grown from this. It will not stop them. What you never have to question is that they will continue to provide quality services for all of the families served in any way that they can. They will continue to be on the lookout for a second location, but until then, message, call, email, book a tour, they will enroll your child as soon as they can!!!

Sensational Minds: Early Learning Academy wants to thank everyone who has put their trust in this business as their childcare providers. Choosing someone to look over your child and be responsible for their care and safety, and development for a large part of their day is one of the hardest decisions a parent/guardian can make. So, thank you for trusting us, and choosing us. It is Sensational Minds' goal to ALWAYS provide the very best for your child/ren and your family.

The future holds lots of excitement... Let's see what they do next!

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