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Head Start parent selected to pitch program idea at Accelerate 2023

Briana Cannada is a Head Start parent, a national representative for Step Forward’s policy council and a mother. She is also an entrepreneur and an artist.

“I was always really talented in art, but my mother was a single mom of two, so even though she was supportive of my talent and interest, she wasn’t always able to provide financial resources for me to be able to cultivate my talent and interest,” Cannada recalled. “That’s why I want programming that is accessible to youth.”

Briana Cannada reads a book to a local class
Courtesy: Briana Cannada

Cannada isn’t just talking about such programming, though. She already has programming available for older students and has a program idea for preschool-aged children. She was recently selected to pitch in the education category at Accelerate, a pitch competition in Greater Cleveland.

“I thought it was awesome because I knew a lot of people applied and they only took five people for each category,” she explained. “And there were no other preschool initiatives.”

The applicants will pitch their idea Thursday, February 23rd at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. Categories include Cleveland experiences and excursions, economic prosperity, education, health and well-being, quality of life and social change. A panel of judges, made up of community leaders, will select one finalist in each category. The winner will receive $5,000. The remaining five finalists will receive $2,000.

Cannada’s idea is called Pre-K Picassos. It is a literacy and art initiative.

“So, if I was facilitating a session, it would be me coming to do an interactive story time with the children. The fun thing about Pre-K Picassos is that it can be tailored to the program I am working with or be a preset curriculum that I have already created. We we would read a story and then we would do an art extension activity based on the story we read,” she explained. “For example, if we read Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, we might do an extension activity like a button collage. There would be buttons of all different types of sizes, colors. The children would have have access to different fabrics for Pete’s jacket or shirt that they would be emulating from the story.”

Cannada continued, that she would be able to have conversations with the children about math, recognizing different sizes of the buttons and comparing big and small all while the children were using their imagination and creativity to make art. They would also get the opportunity to feel different fabrics and materials.

“And then I would send home resources for parents,” she continued. “They would be simple activities but help the children retain the information that we read in the story, because they did so many extension activities.”

Cannada has had the idea for Pre-K Picassos for a while but said she has taken the time to get all the plans together. She said so far, people have loved her idea and donated to her mission.

“Being in the inner city, there isn’t a lot of programming that is accessible to low-income areas,” she said. “Studies show birth to age five is the most crucial time for building connections with children. They need exposure. They need it at that time period so we can foster their interests. They need programming!”

Cannada specifically pointed out the need for literacy initiatives among preschool-aged children in Greater Cleveland. She referenced a statistic, shared by Newschannel 5 in 2020, that showed 66 percent of people who live in Cleveland are functionally illiterate. The same report shared that some neighborhoods were 95 percent illiterate.

“I’m not just looking to be in daycare and Head Start. I want this programming to be in libraries and local school systems that service preschool-aged children,” she said.

When asked what Cannada would do with the money if she won, she said she would invest the funding in resources like the art materials and books she would use.