Wendy Sims-Moten: It’s my pleasure to interview Krista Delia, the senior program director at the Santa Maria Valley YMCA. In addition to being a gathering place for community members of all ages, the Y also has a preschool on site.

Welcome, Krista, and tell us a little more about the Y.

Krista Delia: Thanks for having me! The YMCA offers NAEYC-accredited early childhood education to children aged 2½ to 5 years old. Because of our financial assistance program, we are proudly able to offer children from all income levels a high-quality educational experience.

We believe quality early education is key to a child’s future success — with education, you can DO and BE more! The Santa Maria Valley YMCA is passionate about keeping staff apprised of educational trends, philosophies and theories.

The YMCA is honored to be serving our community through early education. Our biggest challenge is actually space. We would love to increase our preschool enrollment and serve more children in our community.

WSM: I know you have a lot to offer children and families beyond yoru fantastic preschool. What other programming do you offer?

KD: We offer Summer Camp opportunities for kindergarteners, including our Y Readers Program, which focuses on literacy skill building and preparing for the coming school year. We offer swim lessons to help children aged 3-5 build confidence in their swimming abilities and enjoy a safer summer.​

WSM: What returns do you see from the Y’s investment in early care and education?

KD: At the Y, we believe the values and skills learned early on are vital building blocks for quality of life and future success. That’s why our preschool is staffed with people who understand the cognitive, physical and social development of kids.

Krista Delia’s 3-year-old daughter attends the Santa Maria Valley YMCA preschool. (Delia family photo)

We believe these investments are endless, and that’s the beauty of early education. We empower littles to become MORE in life, to take the lead by building confidence academically and emotionally.

Our neighbors believe it, too. The Santa Maria Valley YMCA offers up to 50 percent off in monthly preschool tuition raised by our Annual Support Campaign with the help from community members to ensure our mission is met of giving EVERYONE the opportunity to receive quality care regardless of their ability to pay for it.

WSM: That’s huge. It’s so essential that we build a network of high quality, affordable child care accessible to all families.

KD: We can’t do what we do without the community’s support. We have more than 100 volunteers who raise funds to support our financial scholarships and have many businesses who support our mission and help make affordable programming possible. With the support of our board members who donate their time and talents, the Y is able to make more possible for youth and adults in our community.

The saying “it takes a village” is 100 percent true. The YMCA believes in our community and will continue to offer services through youth development, social responsibility, and health and wellness to strengthen and empower families to grow and thrive.

WSM: Speaking of families, you have two delightful children. What is your favorite Talk/Read/Sing habit with your own kids?

KD: Having two children ages 9 months to 3 years, our house is filled with lots of talking, reading and singing.

Reading a bedtime book is the most precious time I have with my 3-year-old daughter. It’s OUR time, just the two of us, and we both look forward to reading a few books before we say our bedtime prayers.

My 9-month-old loves when we sing to him; his favorite song right now is “Slippery Fish” — not your usual nursery rhyme, but my 3-year-old has been singing this song to him since his birth.

WSM: Krista, you also grew up in the Santa Maria Valley. Tell us a little about your experience as a young child.

KD: I attended Rice Elementary School in Santa Maria. I remember absolutely loving circle time, when my teacher read to the whole class and picked volunteers to help hold these huge books as she read aloud in different voices.

I was blessed to have a teacher who was so animated when reading to us; she made reading feel like a journey that continues to live on through my own passion of literacy and passing it down to my children.

WSM: The Y is very supportive of staff families. What advice do you have to other employers about becoming more family-friendly?

KD: My work has been flexible with office hours, either letting the kids come to work for a few hours or allowing me to work from home. Having my child attend the YMCA preschool, which is located down the hall from my office, helps juggling the pressures of work and motherhood and makes it a little more manageable.

Our CEO, Shannon Siefert, encourages us to attend our children’s special events. In fact, Shannon usually wants a full report and cute pictures when we return to work!

I love being a part of the Y. If you want to strengthen your leadership team, my only advice to other employers about becoming more family-friendly is to just do it. Time is precious. Allowing this will benefit the employer just as much as the employee.

WSM: Krista, you certainly bring a lot to the Y! Thank you for your leadership in ensuring our community has high-quality, affordable early care and education.

— Wendy Sims-Moten is executive director of First 5 Santa Barbara County. Click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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