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Appreciating AWARD$ During COVID-19: Chris Tryon’s Story

When Chris Tryon, who operates a five-star family child care home in Union County, learned that Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® would be available to him and other home-based professionals, he was very excited.

He said, “I was all for it! We spend so much money keeping our programs going and meeting high standards, and I have five stars. AWARD$ would help because I could upgrade my facility, furniture, toys, get a nicer playset. I would reinvest it in my home program and my kids!”

Chris’ first check was mailed at the end of February, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit hard in North Carolina. Now, as with other early educators in the state, Chris is struggling through this new reality.  His regular parents were not considered essential, so they stayed home with their own children. He is now* open for essential workers and says he wants to help if he can, but he has not yet had many children.

Chris wonders what will happen in the future if the children he has served will return. He said they’ve become like his family. His mother always worked with children so he found it natural to do so. He started working when he was young at a child recreation center and kept going from there. When he moved to North Carolina, he started working in a child care center and then opened his own home in 2009.

He said, “The best part of having my own program is that I really get to know the families I serve. I can really share with them about what is happening with their children. Children often stay with me until they go to kindergarten, and I give them stability and familiarity.”

“Being a man in this industry can be challenging,” Chris said. “People who don’t know me tend to think I may not know what I’m doing. They get a little nervous about it. Others embrace it. I tell them it is my profession and I have a lot of experience. My friends call me ‘Gary Poppins,’ and I can embrace that. I can be a positive male role model.”

Chris looks forward to sharing his skills with more families and appreciates that the AWARD$ supplements will continue to offer some support during the COVID-19 crisis.

“My first check was like winning the lottery,” he said.  “Now, knowing that it is coming is wonderful because who knows how long this is going to last? Knowing that I have that cushion means a lot. I really want to thank the Division of Child Development and Early Education for helping out family child care providers.”

The NC Division of Child Development and Early Education funds the Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® program in all 100 counties of North Carolina. Learn more about AWARD$ here.

*Interview took place in April, 2020.

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