MACAA Welcomes New Head Start Director

Melissa Carter.jpg

CHARLOTTESVILLE, July 23, 2019— The Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA) is excited to announce that Melissa Carter has been named the Head Start Director. In this role Ms. Carter will be overseeing the eleven Head Start classrooms that MACAA operates in the area.

 Ms. Carter brings with her 11 years of classroom teaching experience and a depth of experience in early childhood education and organizational management. For the past 3 years, Ms. Carter has served as the Education, Disability and Mental Health Manager at MACAA. Prior to that she served as the Director of Education at the Sylvan Learning Center, the Center Director at the Rainbow Child Care Center, and the Staff Development Coordinator at the ARC of the Piedmont.

 Ms. Carter serves on the Board of the Central Chapter of the Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children (C-VAAEYC). She has presented at the Virginia Head Start Association Annual Conference, the VHSA Health & Family Institute, and the C-VAAEYC Mini-Conference. She holds a B.A. in Elementary Education with an add-on endorsement in 7-12 Social Sciences from Niagara University and is working on completing her Master of Art in Teaching degree.

Project Discovery's Spring 2019 Out of State Campus Visits Review

Project Discovery students at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center

Project Discovery students at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center

The Take Off:

            April 1st of 2019, Project Discovery set out to explore colleges, universities, and landmarks of the Southern regions along the east coast.   At 6:45 am, twenty-three excited and nervous students from Charlottesville, Monticello, Albemarle, Nelson County, Louisa County and Fluvanna County High Schools, four gracious parent chaperones, one hopeful Project Discovery Director, and one awesome Professional Navigator of the Roadway departed the Monticello Area Community Action Agency for Greensboro, North Carolina.  Whispers of “what do you think it’s going to be like”, and “I can’t wait to get to …” and “I’m still sleepy” swirled around the red luxury motor coach. 

The Journey:

Project Discovery’s first stop at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, the largest historically black university in the United States, was a great way to begin our quest for more knowledge about southern colleges and universities.

April 2nd, the group split up.   The young women set out for Spelman to learn more about the distinguished, private, and all female college.  Spelman College is a global leader in the education of women of African descent.   The young men migrated through the campus of Morehouse College, the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rhodes Scholars, and many other notable African-American community and civil rights leaders.   Afterwards, students experienced “the FUN place to eat “at “the world’s largest drive in”, a staple of downtown Atlanta, Georgia since 1928, and known as the Varsity.   Project Discovery then navigated down the streets of Midtown Atlanta to discover the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology, ranked the “smartest” public college in America.  The next stops on the journey educated students about the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others who were influential to the civil rights movement. Students appreciated becoming more knowledgeable of Dr. King’s impact on the world at the King Center, his birth home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Fire House.  Our last stop of the day ended at Lenox Square for shopping and dinner at California Pizza Kitchen.

April 3rd, reluctantly bags were packed and the bus was loaded to head back home.  Before Project Discovery departed Atlanta, one last stop was made at the World of Coca Cola, another staple and popular attraction of downtown Atlanta. The tour guide was excellent in providing the history of the Coca- Cola Company and explaining key artifacts of the brand.   Students and chaperones expressed how much they enjoyed the experience, and how tasting all the flavors of Coca Cola from around the world was a nice treat!

The Conclusion:

   Project Discovery stopped for a quick fast food lunch, to-go, on the journey back home.   After traveling for serval hours, Project Discovery stretched their legs during a family style meal at Golden Coral, while recapping and sharing the group’s thoughts and reactions to the three day journey.  Many miles later twenty-three thrilled students, four pleased parent chaperones, one satisfied Project Discovery Director, and one delighted Navigator of the Roadway returned to the Monticello Area Community Action Agency safe and sound with more awareness of themselves, their future, and the world. 

Project Discovery students at North Carolina A&T

Project Discovery students at North Carolina A&T

Rose Minor, Special Assistant for Community Engagement and Director of LGBTQ Outreach for Governor Northam to Address MACAA Project Discovery Students

CHARLOTTESVILLE, May 23, 2019—Rose Minor, Special Assistant for Community Engagement and Director of LGBTQ Outreach in the Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam, will speak at tonight’s MACAA Project Discovery End of Year Banquet.


The End of Year Banquet will celebrate and recognize the 63 graduating seniors who participate in Project Discovery and will be held at the Wood Grill.  Project Discovery provides support, guidance, skill workshops, coaching, and financial assistance to lower income and first-generation students with the goal of helping them successfully finish high school and enroll in college.   


Rose Minor currently serves as Special Assistant for Community Engagement and Director of LGBTQ outreach in the Office of Governor Ralph S. Northam. Prior to her appointment, Rose served as Special Assistant to the Virginia Secretary of Education, Atif Qarni. Some of Rose’s previous work includes serving as a substitute teacher for Richmond Public Schools, an emergency humanitarian officer in Lesbos, Greece and a volunteer consultant to the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer program in Khatlon, Tajikistan. Rose earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia’s College of Arts and Sciences and her graduate degree from the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. 

MACAA Strengthens Partnerships with Network2Work

Poverty is a complex problem that requires shared solutions. The Network2Work, a collaborative program offered by Piedmont Virginia Community College, has found a way to address that complexity head-on. By working with a network of employers, service providers, and “peers” in the community, the Network2Work has established a new approach to lifting people out of poverty.

MACAA has participated in this effort since the beginning. Nancy Kidd, Hope House Director, was one of the first peers to participate in the program—sponsoring job-seekers on the path to self-sufficiency. Now, we are excited to bring more of our staff on board with this collaborative approach. On October 22, our Head Start Family Advocates and Rural Outreach Director joined the program as peers. They too will be able to connect job-seekers with opportunities to overcome obstacles, gain new credentials, and achieve living wage employment.

During a training by Sarah Mendoza, Peer Network Coordinator, we learned how to help people access the resources they need to attain additional education and thrive in a new job. Our staff already work hard to help their clients achieve their own goals. Now they have additional tools to strengthen our own services and connect with other providers.

Partnerships are critical to MACAA’s work. We are thrilled to participate in the Network2Work, which brings the whole community together to make living wage employment a viable path out of poverty. Thank you to Sarah Mendoza for showing us the ropes!

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About the Network2Work:

“Network2Work at PVCC, is a job network that connects job seekers to the skills and resources they need to become valued employees and helps employers find the quality employees they need for their companies.”

Congratulations to Project Discovery Graduates!

With the new school year underway, MACAA Project Discovery is hitting the ground running with workshops and campus visits for new and returning students. We are also reflecting on the amazing accomplishments of our 2018 graduating class—90% are enrolled in a wide range of colleges and taking the next steps of their educational journey.

Project Discovery is a critical resource for first-generation college students. In addition to providing mentorship and individual direct support, we work to remove barriers that can get in the way of college enrollment. For example, we provide SAT fee waivers, assistance navigating financial aid, and academic scholarships. Twenty-seven graduating seniors were awarded scholarships through Project Discovery in 2018—through our funds and with the help of our partners at the Nelson County Community Fund and SOAR VA529—totaling $36,200.

We want to make sure that we have the same financial support in place for our next cohort of seniors, and we need your help to make that happen! Please spread the word about our upcoming Scholarship Bingo Fundraiser on Saturday, September 29, at MACAA’s main office from 1—3pm. For more information, contact—or find us on Facebook at MACAA Project Discovery.

Congratulations to all of our 2018 graduates—and good luck at the wonderful schools they are attending this fall!

  • Virginia State University
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • University of Lynchburg
  • University of Virginia
  • Stevenson University
  • Randolph College    
  • Radford University
  • Piedmont Virginia Community College
  • Old Dominion University
  • Marymount University
  • Longwood University
  • George Mason University
  • Ferrum College

Peter Hawes Joins MACAA Team

Peter G. Hawes, a recent graduate of the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, has joined the Monticello Area Community Action Agency (MACAA) as their Senior Program Director.

 The Senior Program Director is responsible for overseeing several of the agency’s programs, preparing grant proposals, and reporting on program outcomes. This position also serves as a member of the senior management team and supports and promotes the mission, vision, and values of the agency.

Mr. Hawes, a Fulbright Scholar who worked in Nepal as a teacher and school administrator, also worked as an intern at the International Rescue Committee in Washington, DC and completed a project at the National Community Action Foundation. He brings with him skills in research and analysis, strategic planning for nonprofits, and public engagement at multiple levels.



Head Start Students Accepted at Peabody School

I am delighted to report that two of our MACAA Head Start students have been accepted at the prestigious Peabody School for the 2018-19 kindergarten class. In addition, one of their younger sibling has been accepted into the prekindergarten program. All of these children have earned a full scholarship (including tuition and all fees) to Peabody, which is a special school for intellectually advanced children.

As the founder of Peabody School and the current Director of MACAA's Head Start program, this is a dream come true for me personally. I had always wanted to establish a connection between Head Start and Peabody and tried back before the school was founded in 1994. The time wasn't right then, however, but now that dream is being realized. I believe strongly that there are academically talented students in all populations, and it is our job to find them and give them the opportunities that a place like Peabody offers.

I urge you to check out the Peabody School website ( to learn more about he school.

--Harriet Kaplan

Harriet Kaplan Honored by Local Rotary Club

CHARLOTTESVILLE, March 19, 2018— Harriet Durling Kaplan, Executive Director and Head Start Director of the Monticello Area Community Action (MACAA) was recently honored by the Blue Ridge Mountains Rotary Club with two prestigious awards. She was voted 2017’s Citizen of the Year for her “Exemplary Service above Self.” In addition, she was named the Paul Harris Fellow for 2017. With this fellowship came a $500 award to be donated to the nonprofit of her choice. Of course, she chose MACAA as her charity. 

Kaplan, who founded Charlottesville’s prestigious Peabody School in 1994, graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in economics and from the University of Virginia with a master’s degree in elementary education. She was named MACAA’s Interim Executive Director in March of 2016 and Executive Director soon thereafter. She added the job of MACAA Head Start Director in January of 2017. Harriet serves in the role of Executive Director on a pro bono basis and donates back 90% of her Head Start salary to MACAA Head Start. Kaplan is dedicated to serving her community and has been doing so for the past 24 years.

Special Donation to Head Start

Jill just had her fifth birthday party, and she didn't receive any toys. Was she sad? No. She was ecstatic! All of the children who came to the birthday party brought something that Jill had asked them to bring--shoes and socks for Head Start children.

Jill and her sister Isabelle were taught by their parents from an early age about the importance of giving to others. Two years ago, Isabelle's party netted coats, hats, and gloves for our Hope House program. This year, it was Jill's turn.

Jill chose MACAA Head Start from among a list of charitable organizations that her mother brought to her attention. It was no easy task for her to choose, but after several weeks of deliberation, Jill made her decision. The accompanying photograph shows Jill with all of the shoes and socks that she collected.

What a wonderful surprise it was for us to receive Jill's very selfless gift!


Girl Scouts Make Donation to Kids

The Girl Scout Troup 803 (Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline) conducted a Stuffed Animal Collection Drive as part of their Bronze Award Project. They collected new stuffed animals for the children of Hope House and SARA. We offer our sincere thanks to these wonderful rising 5th graders for their demonstration of caring for our children.

--Harriet Kaplan

Photo by Remedios/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Remedios/iStock / Getty Images

MACAA teachers featured in Ready Kids video

Our teachers make us proud everyday! Our teaching team in the Ferguson classroom, Shawn Wells and Isaac Edwards, was recently featured in an online video produced by ReadyKids. Our partnership with ReadyKids brings Play Partners into the classroom for additional learning opportunities for our Head Start children.

Please watch the video below and learn about how Ready Kids Play Partners taught our Ferguson students about "good touch" and "bad touch" to keep kids safe!

ReadyKids Partner Video

Help Comes To MACAA

Members of UVa's Alpha Theta helped out at MACAA on Saturday 1 April 2017. They moved 36 boxes of files, a file cabinet, a book case, 2 computers, and a very big, very heavy, very unwieldy, very red sofa. Hat's off to these lovely young ladies with plenty of muscle!

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New Project Discovery Director

We are delighted to announce that MACAA has hired a new Project Discovery Director. Taneia Dowell has been involved with Head Start for several years. She first came to us as a parent and Policy Council representative, and then she joined the staff as an Assistant Teacher, where she excelled. Next, Taneia moved to the position of Family Advocate and was very successful in that role. When the Project Discovery position came open, it was a natural fit for Taneia, as she had worked with teens in the public schools in a previous job. While we were sad to see her leave the Family Advocate role, we were delighted to be able to promote someone from within, and we welcome Taneia with open arms as she enters this new and exciting phase of her career.

--Harriet Kaplan