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Meet BECC’s Jodi Kelly

Sure, we all think we're smarter than a 3rd grader. But that belief will soon be put to the test, to benefit the efforts of Branford Early Childhood Collaborative (BECC).

The BECC fundraiser "Are You Smarter than a 3rd Grader?" Live Family Game Show and Silent Auction will be at Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club on Friday, Sept. 27 (also featuring a pasta station and cash bar; tickets are still available). Community adult teams will square off to answer questions culled from a year's worth of 3rd-grade knowledge, assisted by-and at one point, competing with-a panel of eight, newly minted 4th graders from Branford Public Schools. Hint to those brave adults: Don't forget to brush up on local history and words like "gemness." Enough said.

"We've reached out into the community in individual ways, but this is our first fundraising event," says BECC Executive Director Jodi Kelly. "Our mission is birth to age 8, so we wanted to keep it within that group and we wanted to create something people would look forward to each year. Our fundraising money goes back to helping our partners sustain their programs."

Jodi is BECC's sole employee. BECC was formed up some 11 years ago by a group of Branford citizens; many populate its Board of Directors.

Situated under United Way, "our biggest mission is to see what...the community needs and where are we with our partners with all of the resources in town-what are we lacking, how can we get together to create a stronger system for early childhood? BECC is here to help bring the partners together," explains Jodi.

About three years ago, BECC received a partnership grant to form a community plan.

"For two years, we weren't allowed to do a lot of programming or outreach, just to focus on creating the group and writing the plan. We brought all the partners together and wrote a plan to really see what's going on in regards to health, safety, and early childhood education," says Jodi.

With the plan in hand, BECC was then awarded an implementation grant, received last year.

"We're now one year into the plan," says Jodi.

Last April, BECC made a programming splash during national Week of the Young Child with One Book, One Town. BECC supplied 1,245 copies of the book Not a Box to pre-K through grade 1 Branford students, followed by several creative community collaborations.

"When you have an idea, if you get all of the partners involved, that's the magic," says Jodi. "The Week of the Young Child had kids' art on every store window in town, the library had a contest, the schools were involved, we had a big event on the Green. It was just incredible."

Look for a BECC Week of the Young Child event annually, and, with the launch of "Are You Smarter?," a spectacular BECC annual fall fundraising and awareness event, too.

Year-round, BECC works in many ways to assist the community. The BECC Pre-K to K Round Table Series brings teachers together and offers professional development to better prepare kids for classroom and learning experiences ahead. In another area, a dental program initiative is underway with BECC, East Shore District Health Department, and Branford Cares.

"We've done a community-wide study on why people may or may not be going to the dentist," says Jodi. "Our part of that is we want to see why children before age 8 are entering school without having a dental cleaning visit-is it financial, is it scary, is it cultural? What are the reasons, and how can we help families get that care?"

Among many other programs, BECC collaborated with Branford Parks & Recreation this summer for Rec Reads. The pilot program brought in a reading specialist to work with new 1st- and 2nd graders in need of support, improving and/or maintaining their reading skills. Next year, the successful program is looking to expand to all four summer camps.

Before joining BECC, Jodi was executive director for New York City's Single Parent Project and was also a Head Start pre-school teacher. She assists BECC in all aspects of its mission.

"We used results-based accountability to quantify and qualify each program-is it working, is it what we anticipated, how can we fix it? We also do a lot of self-assessment-are we what they need in the community? We strive to be what the community needs."

BECC presents "Are You Smarter than a 3rd Grader?" Live Family Game Show and Silent Auction fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 27 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Pine Orchard Yacht & Country Club, 2 Club Parkway, Branford. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 children, and are available at Meyer's Flower Shop, Branford Parks & Recreation, and BECC (12 Melrose Avenue). Some adult team openings may still be available. For more information, visit


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