CIRCLE on the Road: Reflecting on the Grant’s Impact Across the State

After nearly a year of virtual meetings and calls, Early Milestones hosted seven in-person events across the state to meet with recipients of the Community Innovation and Resilience for Care and Learning Equity (CIRCLE) Grant. Our team also met with grantees along the way at their sites near Broomfield, Colorado Springs, Denver, Durango, Fort Collins, Glenwood Springs, and Lowry.

Funded by the Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC), the CIRCLE Grant initiative provided nearly $23 million in grants to more than two hundred child care providers and other community, educational, and governmental partners. The grants were funded as part of over $275 million from the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. In partnership with CDEC, Early Milestones was the lead agency for the grants.

Through this one-year grant, recipients pursued innovative solutions to child care and early childhood system challenges worsened by the pandemic. Grantees dreamed big, listened to their communities, and created space for teamwork.

“It [was] nice after being on Zoom the entire grant to see beautiful smiling faces and [to hear] happy joyous voices.” – CIRCLE Grantee, Colorado Springs Regional Event

At each event, grantees met in person, connected over a meal, and deepened relationships that started on a computer screen. We heard over and over how the CIRCLE grants have been transformative. In small group conversations, grantees answered questions like “What are your wildest hopes and dreams for the field of early childhood in Colorado?” with common themes that included:

  • the significance of community in creating and sustaining programs,
  • the need to value the early childhood workforce through increased benefits, compensation, and professional development,
  • increasing access to equitable and accessible child care,
  • and the importance of creating inclusive spaces for all children.
This word cloud was generated from the reflections provided by CIRCLE grantees at the seven regional events across the state.

“The CIRCLE grant for us created big thinking. Before we were living in a scarcity mindset. With the grant, we were able to go to our staff and our community for ideas, and it was very different thinking than we had before.” – CIRCLE Grantee, Colorado Springs Regional Event

At several events, grantees connected directly with CDEC staff, including Executive Director Dr. Lisa Roy, Office of Program Delivery Director Mary Alice Cohen, CIRCLE Program Manager Emily Wengrovius, Stimulus Programs Manager Bonnie Rouse-Caputo, State Systems Building Initiatives Manager Kristen Lang, and Early Childhood Education Recruitment and Retention Manager Angela Ben-Zekry. CDEC leadership heard directly from child care providers and early childhood stakeholders about their experiences with CIRCLE and their hopes and dreams for early childhood in the state.

Every site visit, from mobile preschool buses in the Roaring Fork Valley to small child care centers nestled in San Juan County, reminded us of the importance of meeting people where they are. The landscape of child care and early childhood services across Colorado is varied and diverse, and grantees’ passion and care for children and families shone through.

These events and site visits showed us that relationships and community are the heartbeat of this grant. We are grateful to have learned alongside and with CIRCLE grantees. We look forward to sharing all that the CIRCLE grantees have accomplished in the coming months.

To see more about our site visits and CIRCLE, scroll the gallery below and follow us on social media!


  • Staff from Early Milestones and the Colorado Department of Early Childhood met with recipients of the CIRCLE grant at regional events and site visits.

  • Grantees shared their hopes and dreams for the early childhood field in Colorado, including equitable and accessible child care.

  • Relationships and community-building are at the heart of the CIRCLE Grant Initiative.