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United Way award winner advocates for better early childhood education

November 7, 2018

By Nicole Petersen



When Amanda Crawford thinks of the word “advocacy,” she thinks of standing up for something you are passionate about and inspiring others.

As the department vice president of community engagements and sponsorships for VyStar Credit Union, a United Way volunteer and an early learning advocate, Crawford has done just that. She is dedicated to improving the lives of children in Northeast Florida and has done so for over 10 years.

For her outstanding work with local children and efforts to improve early learning requirements, Crawford was awarded United Way’s 2018 Sherwood H. Smith Children’s Champion Award in the advocacy category.

Crawford has represented United Way’s women’s leadership society, Women United, in Tallahassee on multiple occasions to advocate for positive change in early childhood education. Specifically, Crawford advocated for better quality in Florida’s School Readiness program and improved accountability and quality standards for early learning providers.

“I have enjoyed many opportunities to meet with our local legislatures to share the importance of creating early learning standards,” Crawford said. “Advocacy doesn’t stop with legislatures, though. It means sharing this information with local business leaders, networking groups and people with and without children. The children are our future – workforces, leaders and caregivers.”

Crawford said she was introduced to United Way through her employer during an annual donation campaign. She first got involved in early childhood education through the Success By 6 program.  Her own kids were enrolled in a 5-STAR center, which is an institution that goes beyond the basic requirements of licensing set by the state of Florida.

Since then, Crawford discovered a personal passion for not only improving early childhood education but also for volunteering in her community. For five years, she has participated in United Way’s ReadingPals program, a volunteer-based early literacy initiative that provides mentors for pre-K students who need extra help getting ready for kindergarten.

“My volunteer efforts have ranged from beautification projects, cleanup projects, food drives, gift drives to me becoming a ReadingPal,” Crawford said. “Through United Way, I have been able to connect to likeminded individuals and find these amazing programs.”

Crawford is a great representation of a community leader who stands up for what she believes in. She has grown in leadership roles as a past chair of United Way’s Women United and helps improve lives in her community no matter what position she is in.

“A favorite quote of mine is ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ by Mahatma Gandhi,” Crawford said. “Volunteering and advocating is my way to be the change I want to see in the world.”

For more information on the Sherwood Smith Awards, visit United Way of Northeast Florida’s official awards webpage. To learn about ways you can be part of the change, visit unitedwaynefl.org/get-involved.